After stopping for a coffee at Cherwell Valley Services I get to the circuit, unloaded the van and signed on for my Level 2 course at the California Superbike School (CSS) by 07:20.
The sky was looking positive and it looked like we should get at least one dry session in.
In all practicality, if it was wet, it wouldn't have made any real difference as the skills being taught are especially effective when grip is at a premium.
After the warm up laps, I met my instructor Duncan who was fantastic. Throughout the day I built up a great rapport with him and found the way he instructed very similar to Sam, my instructor from Level 1. For me this highlights one of the key the strengths of the CSS and the depth of their knowledge and the accessibility of the lessons. The difference between the way that Sam taught me a month or so ago and Duncan's technique was negligible. They both delivered the information in a clear, concise manner, asked me questions about a varied of different factors, all of which challenged me to think analytically about my riding, combining to improve my bike control across the day. They could have been the same person, their teaching styles were so similar.
I've been there myself and I don't know why, but I didn't want to think of him, in an hours time, regretting his decision to be at the school or regret leaving early. He decided to stay and give it another session. He stayed right until the end and I caught up with him a few more times during the day and his attitude has clearly changed. He was out there doing it and enjoying it. Dude, seeing you out there in the afternoon was one of the most amazing parts of my day.
With five dry sessions under our belt and six classroom sessions delivered, the wind, that was keeping the monstrous storm clouds at bay since lunch, slowly changed directions and finally brought the rain.
I put my helmet and gloves on with the intention of riding straight to the van, but I then found myself lined right up at the end of the line. I was going.
With fewer riders and a a lot of water on the track, I took it very easy, but I worked on my drills. Three Step. Turning Point. Pick Up. A lap in and Duncan came past me on the back straight waving his arm in the air in celebration. I waved back with equal excitement. Following him for a few corners and being out there was a real highlight. I had totally control of the bike and it wasn't going anywhere I didn't want it to. After four laps though, the surface water was getting silly. Turn three was under water and fearing an aquaplane, I headed to the pits. A few minutes later the session was red flagged and that was that. It was just too risky for everybody.
Having parked my bike at the end of the garage, I was walking back when Duncan came it. He strode over and gave me a massive man hug and I will admit, having never hugged another 6'3 man in full leathers, it felt like the right thing to do. He was genuinely pleased that I'd gone out and put my new skills to the test and despite being soaked, so was I.
I'm so glad I plucked up the courage to start the CSS levels and really cant wait to get back on track again, test those skills and then return for level 3. Yesterday was one of the best days I've had in years.