Hey everyone! I'm back home from Pala and what a trip it was! There's just nothing like jumping in your rig, leaving one race and making a 20 hour mad dash to SoCal to make it to another race! Oh the things we do for a shot of adrenaline. I have a renewed respect for the privateers who criss-cross the country every week. So I apologize for not updating you all sooner, but this has been a busy week to say the least. For those of you that might not have been following my past few blogs I'll fill you in on what "Pala" is. It's the last round of one of the most competitive seasons in motocross history and it all came to a conclusion over the weekend. Traxxas Pala National is held in Southern California. Pala is viewed as one of the gnarliest tracks on the AMA outdoor circuit and so the track is the perfect place to wrap up the season.
Early this year I knew I was going to try to make it to the opening race of the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA race season at Hangtown in Northern California. I was planning on racing Hangtown, Thunder Valley as well as Pala for this year. But after I had raced Hangtown my dad and I both agreed that it would be smarter to skip thunder valley and just race the last race of the series. We based our decision on the simple fact that we knew I was not ready for thunder valley. I knew I wasn't strong enough for how rough that track gets, let alone my overall health was not doing so well at the time. Hangtown was a bitter sweet sort of deal. I was glad to do my first national, but it went completely the opposite way I was hoping for. I had a bad crash in practice and it set the whole day off. With a 25th in the first moto and a 31st in the second I scored 30th overall out of 35 women. I remembered thinking to myself I would not come back to a national and ride like I did that day.
I went home and marked my calendar, May 21st, to September 10th. I knew that anything could happen between those months, but I also knew that the summer was going to have to be filled with hard work; time spent on and off the bike. Together my family, along with my coach, Jay Whipple, set goals and plans for my racing program. Don't think this was like boot camp though! lol Most of the goals we set were very simple things, like getting on the bike 3 to 4 times a week, or even just trying to get healthy or confident. I had some races before Pala that were pretty big and I wanted to win those to carry confidence into the national. From all the training and work I put in, I was hoping to just come away from Pala with getting 1 point, and racing like I knew I could and not going down because of a dumb mistake. I felt pretty confident I could achieve the small goals I made for myself, especially after two moto wins and the overall from the top gun team shoot out the weekend before.
So after our long drive down to Pala, my mom and I arrived late Thursday night and it was nearly 100 degrees outside. I was concerned about racing in that kind of heat but Friday morning brought heavy fog and to my relief, a much cooler day. We headed to the track and got everything set up and just waited for tech inspection. Meanwhile my dad and mechanic flew in to join us. I am bummed that my brother and sisters couldn't come but they couldn't get out of work, school, and volleyball practice. I love having my family with me and I just feel like something is missing when they aren't around.
We went to walk the track and I soon found that I was a bit overwhelmed . My first thought was going home. I had never felt so conquered before even getting on my bike! The jumps were big and steeper than anything I had ever hit, along with the track being huge it was hard to image how I was going to ride it in the first place. I am pretty sure my dad saw the doubt on my face when I looked at the track. He said "Well this is what we came for. You need to forget about what you can't do, and figure out what you can do." So with that advice we walked the track scoping out the lines and jumps and making sure I had the layout memorized.
Saturday morning came and we were off to the track at 6:30 am. Luckily it was very overcast, which indicated we were going to have another cool day. We got to the track and the riders meeting at 7:50, followed by a short chapel service. Mitch and I hopped on our scooter to go check out the other side of the track and watch the first 250 practices from the hill. We got over there and when the first practice came off the line I was getting kinda nervous. The track was deep and really soft, which meant deep chopping lines later on. After watching we went back to our pit to get ready.
My first practice was at 10:05am. We got to the line and I had to get rid of my nerves and just focus on learning the track. When we got the ok to get going I took off. Unfortunately, a couple laps into practice, there was a really bad wreck on the finish line double and they red flagged our moto and we all went back to get back on the track. I was completely tense and very nervous from that practice. I was forgetting to breath and holding on to tight, so my mechanic reminded me to breathe and calm down. We got 3 more laps on the track then the first practice was over. My second practice was much better. The jitters and nerves were gone and I was able to focus on the track and get some of the jumps down. My overall qualifying time was 22nd. My goal for the motos was to try to brake top 20 with a consistent ride.
The time flew by and before I knew it I was on the line waiting for the gate to drop on my first moto. I chose the very inside gate mainly because I had just watched Blake Bagget grab the holeshot from there and also because there wasn't much choice after a 22nd pick.haha! Let's just say the start I got was far from impressive. I wheelied off the gate and found myself sitting far back (dead last) in the pack by the second corner. On the first lap it was hard to jump anything, on lap two I put my head down and started charging. I think it's helpful when you have a part of the track that you feel really fast on and then try to pass in that specific section. So that's what I did. Every time I came around to the whoop section I brought my knees back and pinned it. I wasn't the fastest girl in the whoops, and heck I might not have even been close, but I really liked the whoops and it helped my confidence by passing someone every time I went through them. As the 18 minute moto wore on, I was able to make consistent progress as well as take advantage of a couple of down riders. I rolled across the checkers in 16th place and I was beyond excited! Not only did I get that top 20 finish, but I also earned 5 points instead of one. I am laughing right now thinking of how ridiculous and cheesy this sounds to some of you, but I couldn't be happier about it!
We came away from the moto knowing my weak spots on the track and the strong points. I was so excited to ride my second moto, it seemed like it came and went even faster than the first moto. All I had to do now was race my second moto like I did the first moto and then maybe break top 15! Unfortunately it didn't go that way.
Our second moto took off just after 6:00 pm and I had a way better gate pick that moto. Before our moto they groomed some sections of the track. That was a really good thing because the track was absolutely beat up, and the sun was right in everyone's eyes. When the gate dropped I got a great jump but someone in front of me hit false neutral and that was the end of my great start. It was a huge bummer because I was hoping to get a better start and not have to work as hard to pass through the moto. On lap 4 and in 17th, I went down in a corner that set me back to 21st. And that's where I stayed the whole moto. Unfortunately, the whole second moto didn't go as planned. But it was a great experience and I know what I need to improve on to get where I need to be.
I can not adequately thank the people who support me. No matter how the motos turn out at the end of the day, I couldn't be a part of it all without the support of my sponsors and family. I would like to thank Motosport.com who are behind me 100% of the way. Scott Russel from Motosport Hillsboro helps me out and gets me the sickest bikes there are. And Factory Connection has my suspension dialed. As for my other sponsors I just want to say thank you so much, Jay Whipple mx school, Fly Racing, Yoshimura, Decal Graphics, BRT, Hyper X. JJW Design, and there are a ton of other people who have stuck by me this year to help with funds and support! Thank you!!
So that was my weekend, certainly there is going to be a lot of work I will have to put into the off season. I look forward to keeping you guys posted on what's going on and how the off season is going. So enjoy the downtime as get ready for supercross, it will be here before you know it and I for one can't wait!
Until next time,