After already making two runs, Shandra Crawford pulls back on the nearly 20 pounds of gear in the sweltering heat Friday morning.
“It’s like in the ‘Christmas Story’ – putting the kid in the snowsuit,” Crawford jokes.
Then in go the earplugs before she stuffs on the helmet with her blonde braids sticking out the sides. The gloves complete the ensemble.
Crawford cranks up her Yamaha YZF-R6 and it’s back on to the track for another high-speed run around the hairpin turns of Eagles Canyon Raceway with her knee nearly dragging the ground.
“The object is to push it without landing on your head,” she explains.
Crawford, who lives just outside Boyd, will be pushing the limits on the track in as many as seven races Saturday and Sunday at the Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association event at the Slidell raceway.
“This is the most technical track in Texas. It’s my personal mission to get good at this track,” Crawford said.
She is one of hundreds of racers who will be on the 2.5-mile course on Farm Road 51 east of Decatur this weekend. Saturday will feature six-lap sprints for several divisions, solo 30s and a six-hour endurance race to close the day. Sunday will be full of sprints for all classes.
An admitted adrenaline junkie, Crawford, 37, first took the track in California in 2005. It didn’t take long for the Michigan transplant to get hooked. A year later, she was racing.
“The first time is scary,” Crawford said. “I got on in 2005 and stayed on ever since.
“It’s like people getting tattoos. After your first, you continue to get them.”
Crawford’s passion for racing soon made her give up other extreme sports such as distance running and scuba diving to concentrate on racing and the thrill of turning speeds in excess of 100 mph.
After starting racing in California, she began racking up titles in WERA Motorcycle Roadracing.
“I’ve placed in 23 championships and am in the running for two more championships,” Crawford said.
After years of racing on the west coast, Crawford’s career in graphic design brought her to Texas two years ago.
“I had the opportunity to pick up clients in Texas,” Crawford said. “Lucky for me they race bikes here, too.”
She quickly found that her new home provided even more racing opportunities and more competition.
“The largest group of racing ladies is in Texas,” she explains. “More people in Texas race. I enjoy the larger grids. It helps me grow as a racer.”
Crawford is in her second season racing in the CMRA, competing in sprints and on the team Defy The Odds for the endurance events of four to eight hours.
For the 5-3, 115-pound Crawford, holding up a bike weighing more than 400 pounds around the tight turns requires strength and skill. She claims the key is to relax.
“If you relax, you go better and are not as sore. But you have to be aware of fatigue,” Crawford said.
On a soupy day like Friday, she poured down water and sports drinks after every run.
“I’ll lose five to seven pounds over the weekend,” Crawford said.
“You’ve got to work hard to get off the Texas barbecue.”
Along with demands on the body, racing stretches the budget between tires, gas and race entries.
“Any hobby costs money,” she said. “But I do have a budget.”
She has purchased crashed bikes and rebuilt them.
“What I couldn’t fix myself, I hired a mechanic to help with,” Crawford said.
She relies on her sponsors, Kabuto helmets, Cortech, Dunlop, North Texas Superbikes, Driven, GPR, RK Excel, DP Brakes, Pit Bull and Stone Brewing, Co., to keep her on the track.
Crawford has qualified for nationals in Alabama in October in three classes. But right now, she’s concentrating on moving up in the CMRA standings. She is third in the F1 Ladies class.
She competes with men and women in her multiple racing classes.
“It’s tough. If you’re going to gain a position, you have to work at it,” Crawford said about racing the men. “It makes them try hard when they see my braids.”
Her bike also gives up some horsepower to some bigger bikes on the track.
“I’m racing against bikes that are significantly bigger,” she said. “It’s fun to chase them down.”
After almost 10 years of riding, Crawford said she still gets nervous before each race.
“When you don’t get nervous, you cease to grow,” she explains.
But the nerves soon fade into the thrill of ride.
“After half of the first lap, you get into the zone,” Crawford said.
“It’s chill and quite mellow. It’s a hard feeling to describe.”