I'm with Red_Baron on this one...I haven't been able to peel the smile off my face long enough to give any sort of accurate debrief.
I parked my RV in the Paddock area on Saturday afternoon and was immediately invited to relocate it in a tighter spot, but among veterans of CSS. Thanks to Rhino & Elizabeth, Sam, and Merlin (El Colibri) for making me feel welcome. We had a really cool little community thing going on there.
I awoke Sunday early, poured some coffee, and began to watch the CSS operations. I had never been to a track before, never seen CSS work before. I wanted to get an idea for what I would be doing come Monday morning. I saw "Registration", "Leather issue", "The Morning Introductions" and what amused me most was Keith Code walking around & talking to people. As a retired Marine pilot, and a LEAN 6 Sigma Black Belt, watching how units deploy and operate always has its comedic moments. Not CSS. Their work employment model of who does what role, when and why, immediately surfaced as professional & efficient. When units take their show on the road, efficiency of manpower is key: people are expensive, good people even more so. CSS proved they got this.
After watching the riders zorch around the track for awhile (lots of Level 4s!) I admit I got a little apprehensive. This is the major league.
Back at the paddock that night, I listened to the guys talk about how great the track is, with its fresh pavement and just a few races to get a nice surface. They told me that since this is my first experience, I was about to be spoiled rotten! I went to bed a little nervous. Four consecutive days of this? (a "One day", a "Half-Camp", then a "Two Day Camp")
I'm 57 years young! What the hell was I thinking? Lol....
Monday morning arrived and I was awake several minutes before my alarm was to sound off. Had a cup of coffee and some oatmeal. I was ready...lol
Registered, met Trevor (I don't know his salary, but I believe is underpaid for all the logistical train tracks he manages in his wheelhouse), and then spoke to Coach Johnny, and then Coach Laura, and then Coach Keith. All made me feel welcome. (Never got the Hotfoot story...hmmm) Got into the Green Group and was sent to the Classroom are where Dylan Code was setup. Got the track brief from Trevor then Dylan told us all about how the day would go. 5 Classroom Sessions, 5 riding sessions where we would attempt the instructed technique, while not forgetting previous lessons.
After the first Lesson with Dylan, I got suited up and went out an introduced myself to my 'dance partner' for the day, #24. She looked nice enough, but I knew she could be hell on wheels if mistreated. As I mounted her, I was praying the astronaut Alan Shepard prayer "Dear God, please don't let me f**k this up."
As it turns out, I was able to hold my own fairly well at 65-75% effort while navigating the course in 3d & 4th with No Brakes - as per the Lesson Plan. The bike was in Rain Mode - which kept us both calmer - and I progressed through all five of the lessons uneventfully. Coaches Rick & Johnny were very insightful and I got a lot of great tips. After leather turn-in, I made my way back to the paddock area and the grin on my face could be seen a mile away.
Tuesday's "Half camp" brought rain all day, but #19s electronics were nothing short of witchcraft. Same battle concept, same execution, same ontrack coaches, but at a slightly more cautious pace. The "Half-Camp" has 5 lessons, but seven riding sessions. The last two plans are what you and your ontrack coach decide upon.
Wednesday the skies cleared and the "2 Day Camp" began. (OBTW: the morning breakfasts are better at the "camps...") I got a new ontrack coach, Mark, and I told him that I wanted hear it all and he readily obliged. I got another 'dance partner', #22. 5 more lessons, 7 more rides. I was getting more & more comfortable at faster speeds, although I didn't know what those speeds were as the "mph's" were taped over on the dash board...Dylan continued to provide more insight into the mechanics & theory of riding while Coach Mark made sure I was 'getting it' while ontrack.
Day 4, Level 4. Different format. Keith Code briefed all the new Level 4 riders on what this personalized training would entail. He has 199 different exercises for Level 4 riders, all custom tailored to fit/unscrew whatever the rider, the ontrack coach, and the Level 4 advisor think needs polish. After riding the wet track, Coach Mark and I chatted about 'headwork & judgement' and I went to see my Level 4 Advisor - Keith Code. This was amazing. Keith Code himself was going to be advising me on my riding for the entire day! As I progressed through the day, we found a few things that needed some tidying up and there's a lot more out there that I know I haven't uncovered - yet. I was especially happy when Coach Rick saw one of my later runs that day, and came up to tell me how much I had improved in Turn 5 from Mon/Tues.
I finished Level 4 completely fatigued and very happy with the progress I had made. It was really enjoyable to be a student again.
I took the RV to Cheaha State Park - about 90 minutes from the track - and just chilled for couple days, built a fire and reflected on my notes and what I had learned.
I learned two main things:
1. I am not interested in actual racing or 'reducing my lap times' although it IS REALLY FUN to go fast. I went to CSS to become a better cornering rider. Hence, I don't think I'll ever qualify to be a CSS Coach. They are literally the best of the best and I'll never have the racing experience required to do that job well.
2. I really enjoyed learning again. Too often, as an MSF Rider Coach, I am in a coaching role, regardless of where & whom I ride with. It was SO GREAT to put that hat away and just be out there learning.
Thanks to the CSS staff, Student Control - Laura & Cammie, Race Control - Trevor, the coaches - Rick, Johnny, Mark, Laura, Dylan & Keith, and the Code Family for making this experience possible. I think an annual pilgrimage to a "Two Day Camp" will be in the budget forecasting for the next several years....