If only I knew then what I know now...

Nearly a decade ago, an older, wiser rider named John dragged me to a local track day, after witnessing me push the limits too far, too many times on our group rides in Kentucky. In the week leading up to the event, I was a bundle of nerves. Naively, I couldn't stop wondering if the bike was ready, and spent hours poring over the entire thing. I changed the oil, lubed the chain, upgraded the drivetrain, changed the brake pads and added stainless steel braided lines. I washed it, waxed it, even safety-wired a few bolts.

I was such a basket case the night before the track day that I slept for only an hour, hovering over the bike until the wee hours, trying to make sure everything was perfect. The next morning, when we rolled into the paddock at Putnam Park in rural Indiana, the bike was gleaming, immaculate, and meticulously prepared for a day in which it would tool around clumsily in Novice, mostly missing apexes and braking far more than is necessary. But it looked good doing it!

I, on the other hand, was a total disaster.

My new girlfriend (who inexplicably agreed to marry me some years after this debacle) drove all the way to the track so I could pass out in the passenger seat. We arrived with a rented trailer, a smattering of tools, a rear stand, and two jugs of Gatorade we had picked up at a gas station just off the highway. No cooler, no canopy to block the sun, not even a chair.

Ah, youth and inexperience.

Today, my routine is far more polished. I try to stay at or close to the track the night before, get a full night of sleep, and bring plenty of tools, spares, shade, chairs, gas cans and more. My track day checklist is pages long, and it should be. But the most crucial reform I’ve made over the years has been to prepare myself as meticulously as I prepare my equipment.

In the coming days, I’m going to try and save you, whether you’re new to the track this season or a veteran of many, from the mistakes I made. We’ll talk hydration, nutrition and fitness, and have you fueling and maintaining your body as attentively you do your machine. When you do, you’ll find that you are able to enjoy your track experience that much more. Stay tuned!

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