My First Crash

I was really trying to make it through my entire skeleton career without a crash.  Totally unrealistic? Yes, but I figured since I had made it through 3 new tracks within a month span without any crashes, flips or any other sorts of casualties that maybe– just maybe– I’d be the anomaly.

Welp, the Karma B**ch got me on that one.  I guess that small, fleeting fault was enough to tempt her to spite me. Hard.

Because my crash today was not pretty.  Not pretty at all.

Sigulda has a reputation for sending sliders flying out of 11, 13 and 15.  All three turns have a tendency to pick you back up at the end of the curve, so you can’t exit too soon or you get pulled back up in the curve and can flip.  You can’t go in too late or you get too much height early and again, get pulled up at the end.

I decided to go late into 11 and it didn’t immediately register that I needed to drop a toe for my life to minimize the height I would get at the end.  I knew that how I went in was a problem and that I needed to drop a toe, my brain just didn’t connect with my foot to do so.  Instead, I got so much late height I flew off the curve and landed on my back with my sled still on top of me.  I had the wind knocked out of me so there was no way I was getting back on my sled, so I let it go and eventually stopped in Curve 13.  Fortunately I never hit my head, so I’m not concussed.  I had a hard time convincing the coaches from Great Britain and Germany–who rushed down the track yelling at me to stay down– of this, but was appreciative that they helped me off the track and into a car that took me to the finish dock to chat with medical.

Medical looked me over and said that I should be fine, but I’m going to hurt.  A lot.  I think I believe them on that one.  My sacroiliac joint hurts like mother-trucker and has the swelling to prove it.

As of now, I’m still unsure as to whether or not I’m racing tomorrow.  My sled is prepped and ready to go, and we’ll decide tomorrow morning depending on how much I hurt.  I’m most concerned about the push at the start, as well as the pressure hurting throughout the run.  I also don’t want to walk away from this track with my last run being a crash.  I’m not scared to get back on the sled because I know what I did wrong and I know it won’t happen again.  I guess we’ll see what tomorrow brings…please send some positive thoughts my way for tomorrow!


Sigulda, Latvia

I’ve made it to the final stop of the first half of my ICC tour!

The plane to get to Latvia...

I didn’t think I would, being that this was the sight out of my window on the flight over.   I was seriously a little scared, especially flying over a choppy Baltic sea.  Turns out the flight was actually really smooth, so I’ve learned not to judge a book…er, plane…by its cover!

The day we got here the rest of the team and I went to the track that evening to check it out before sliding today.  We got to see a little bit of a luge session and then were even able to walk to track for about 30 minutes. Great success!

Our first day of unofficial training was Monday, and I was literally frightened.  Things get real on this track at the bottom, where 3 of the 5 final curves want to pull you back on the wall and flip you, one of which is after a niiiice long straightaway where you feel like you have all day to think about how badly you don’t want to get into the turn late, or flip out of it.

Monday was a bit eye-opening for us.  They made the track fairly frosty from Curve 1 to about Curve 7 or 8 so that we could get our bearings about us with the track.  That’s all fine and dandy, but it made the timing pretty off, so we all had a few issues through 11, 13 and 15 that weren’t so fun.  The first run it wasn’t so bad because we jogged it off from the top, but the second run is always the judge….you push a little harder and feel a little more confident, and that’s when you usually crash, flip or otherwise.

Here’s a video of me through 11 on my first run….not too bad considering my timing on the steers and the fact that it was my first run down:

Anyway, my path through 11 was a little better second run, but my line through 15 my second run was even worse and I literally went flying through the air out of it…I managed to not land on my side, but hit the right wall and skidded half of the straightaway into 15.  Some coach from another country was watching this area and I’m pretty sure I scared the crap out of him.  Here, however, is a clip of me today exiting 15, and it’s very nice!

I was pretty excited about that.

Tomorrow starts official training, and I’m sure the ice will continue to get even faster, so here’s hoping it’s nothing too out of control! I’ll try to update prior to the race. Cheers!

Official Training and Race Day Results

I hate learning experiences.  Yes, you read that right, I hate learning experiences.  Ya know, the kind when you’re in a situation where you want (and need) to succeed–but don’t–so you pick your angry self up and very nicely through gritted teeth chalk it up to a “learning experience.”

A.K.A You played like crap.

That’s how I felt after today’s race.

I guess I should start with updating about the latter end of the week here in Lillehammer, being that I’ve been a little lazy on the posts.  Our final day of Official Training on Wednesday was absolutely nuts and epic.  Seriously.  Day 3 got off to a late start–by an hour.  A doctor and ambulance are required on staff each day we train and compete as a precaution, in case any accidents do occur.  Naturally, we cannot start until both on premises.  The ambulance decided to come an hour late.  Super.

The weather finally stepped it up to something comparable to typical Norwegian weather….cold.  It was around 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit during that session, a far cry colder than what it had been.  The colder weather made for a much faster track, and I had a very strong training day.  I PR’d both runs and was finally starting to push faster.  However, the track had a mind of its own and many sliders actually broke the visors on their helmets around Curve 13 on the track.  One of the German girls even lost half of her visor!  There was a 5 minute hold on the track so that workers could go in and find the other piece and get it out of the track.  It was seriously crazy.  I fortunately did not break my helmet (I really want to attribute that to my awesome skills, but I’m well aware it’s probably because my helmet is brand new and isn’t beat to hell yet) but I did bruise my chin pretty good and I bit my tongue really hard.  The pressure in 13 was just so great that all I could do was tuck my head, and I ended up tucking it into my sled and pinning my neck/chin to the pod of my sled.  So for now I have a double neck-chin.  It’s pretty hot.

ICC Race #1 started off okay…my first run was decent, a new PR by a few hundreths, but there were a few mistakes I had made that I was eager to fix second run that I knew would find me some time.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.  I look at race days as another training day– meaning I stay relaxed and although I’ll push like crazy, it’s like any other day.  I don’t like to build them up and put pressure on them.  Although I was relaxed, it felt like a completely new track.  I made a few mistakes, but in curves that I didn’t have any problems with all week.  It was very confusing and frustrating.  The only thing I can chalk it up to is that my faster push was throwing off my lines.  Needless to say, I placed 15th, dropping a few spots from where I was seated after my first run.

ICC Race #2 was another matter. While I was still calm and relaxed, I was mad.  I was mad at how the previous day turned out and mad at the mistakes I made.  I was determined today to finish better than the day before.  Well, that and I didn’t want to have to jump in the river.  See, we (the U.S. ICC sliders) made a bet that the lowest placing athlete today had to jump in the small creek/river settled right beside our hotel apartment.  Naturally, I did NOT want to jump in the freezing water. At all.  So the bet, paired with the determination to kick ass, was my motivation to perform better.

My first run saw my fastest push here thus far: a 5.36.  I was really pleased with it, and then completely ruined the lead I gave myself.  I made a mistake up top that definitely cost me a lot of time, and then I decided to bump early into Curve 15, get pushed away and then completely blitz the left wall (which wasn’t iced, it was wooden planks….and don’t ask me why) on the exit.  It literally hurt so bad I spent all of finish Curve 16 with my head on the ice trying to hold in all the expletives I wanted to let out.  I’m fairly positive that I took out half of the wood with me, so sorry to the slider who came after me and ran over my leftover wood splinters. My bad.  The hit out of 15 cost me a lot of time, and I essentially dug myself a hole.

I was determined on my second– and final run in Lillehammer– to enjoy myself and be positive to improve upon my first run.  While my push was just slightly slower (a 5.40) my run was a million times better than the first and was a faster downtime.  Had I not dug the hole on my first run, I would have had a much better finish.  My second run; however, didn’t quite go without a hitch.  I went into Curve 13 late and paid dearly for it.  I missed the first pressure entirely and couldn’t exactly catch the second because it was so hard.  From the second I went into the Curve, my head was glued to the ice– which explains how everyone broke their visors–and I was unable to pick it up until the last 6 feet of the curve.  At this point I looked up, saw that I was, oh, about 6 feet up on the exit and closing and fearing for my life.  I literally put my head back down on the ice, closed my eyes, and hoped to God that I wouldn’t flip.

Fortunately, I didn’t and the tap I took on the left wall wasn’t all too unusual, but it was a pretty scary moment.  It’s crazy how I can have such a sketch exit but still manage a good run, but a small mistake up top with cost you major time.  Sigh.

Downtown Lillehammer

Anyway, overall I know I can’t be disappointed with my time here in Lillehammer.  Norway is beautiful, I had a great time with my teammates, and I know that as a second year slider, to get on all of these new tracks in such a short amount of time is an accomplishment in itself.  But as an innate competitor and perfectionist, it’s hard to accept what I consider sub-par results.  It has been a learning experience, but I like my learning experiences to end as perfect as possible, something I’m going to learn to need to get over.  So for now, I’ll prep for Sigulda, Latvia and sit in the sauna (yep, our bathroom has a legit sauna) for a while to warm up from the cold dip I had to take earlier!

PS…also working on getting some photos up shortly!

Greetings from Norway!

I survived my first two days down Lillehammer!  The track is a lot of fun, despite all the snow coming down at the start of the track during this morning’s session.  Yesterday the boys tweeted about the lack of snow and I think they angered the Snow Gods who in turn spited us this morning.  What a jerk.  Needless to say, Norway looks pretty sweet in snow, it’s just unfortunate that it impeded on our sliding slightly.

Lillehammer Curves 5-6

Today’s session wasn’t quite as good for me.  The track was about a second faster than yesterday and that speed really changed some of the lower corners for me.  My late entrance both runs into 13 caused my head to smack the ice, remain glued to it the entire turn and resulted in me blitzing the left wall, hard enough to send me into the right wall prior to entering Curve 14.  You know, adding insult to injury.  The video from my second run is pretty scary…I probably should have hit the short wall after my first oscillation….yikes.  Tomorrow I will crush Curve 13’s soul (and yes, I think curves on tracks have a mind of their own) just like it crushed mine today.

Here are some interesting things I’ve learned in Norway so far:

1.  The sun literally rises at 10am and sets at 3:45pm.  That is, if the sun comes out at all.  I’m pretty positive it never did yesterday.  And by 4pm, it is middle of the night, pitch black here.  Because of such, the majority of us have a hard time staying awake here.  All I can say is thank goodness Dr. Lausch gave me a Vitamin D supplement here!  Here’s a video of our drive to the track at 8:30am.

2.  On Norwegian TV, there are virtually no commercials.  The only time commercials come on is between shows. It’s AWESOME.

3.  Norway (and pretty much all of Europe) love their winter sports.  Over the past few days, I’ve watched Biathlon, Super G skiing, Downhill skiing, Slalom skiing and Speed skating live, events that I usually only get to see once every 4 years!  It’s pretty awesome!

Trolls at the Ski Jumping Competition

On the same note, last night we went to my very first ski jumping competition!  It was seriously the coolest thing ever.  Unfortunately we missed the women (but we watched US jumper Sarah Hendrickson receive her gold medal!) but we made it for the men from the K90 competition.  There were a ton of fans at the competition, as well as cheerleaders, a band, a jumbo-tron….it was as big as a football game is in the states.  Except they also have trolls here.  Case in point.

Official training starts tomorrow, and we’ll race this Thursday and Friday.  I’m excited to see all of the athletes I’ll be competing against tomorrow….I think there are athletes from 14 different countries!

Calgary and across the Pond

I’m warning you now….go get a snack, a comfy chair and settle in because this blog post is going to be on the longer side.  I wasn’t exactly diligent in updating my blog while in Calgary or once I got home for Thanksgiving (hey, all I wanted to do was lay around and eat!) so I’ll try and make sure I get everything.

After a 14 hour drive and 5.5 hour flight, I made it home from Park City for Thanksgiving last Sunday.  I flew into Philly airport Sunday night around 11:30pm and finally made it into my house about an hour and a half later where I was accosted by my dog.  Apparently he missed me.  He didn’t calm down for another hour or so.  I loved it.

Calgary Starting Line

Calgary was….cold (our second race day had temperatures BELOW zero!).  Among many other things.  I was a little less successful in Calgary than I was in Park City; however, I learned a lot while in Canada and most importantly, never flipped in Curve 8, a curve notorious for sending sliders flying down a very long straight-away on their backs.  Great success!

I placed 8th during our first race, and 9th during the second race day.  Both days I struggled with consistency– if I had a solid first run, the second run was sub-par and vice versa.  It was incredibly frustrating, especially coming off a strong training week in Park City.  Again, I think I know what mistakes I made, so I’m eager to get back (okay, not eager because I still don’t like the track, but determined to succeed) and make adjustments to slide faster.

Thanksgiving was AWESOME.  It was so nice to be home eating good, home-cooked food and I absolutely stuffed myself.  I lost a little bit of weight while traveling and on tour, so I’m pretty positive I made up in calories what I lost out west.  I definitely wasn’t mad. 🙂

Sunrise entering Finland...Courtesy of Greg West

Yesterday (which was really only like, 8 or 9 hours ago) I boarded a plane for Europe and am currently sitting in the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland on a 6 hour layover.   It’s my first time ever going to Europe so it’s still a bit surreal to comprehend where I actually am right now and how jet-lagged I’m going to be since Finland is 7 hours ahead of home for me.  I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane so I’m going to hit a wall reeeeeally soon.  We’ll catch our connection to Oslo, Norway around 3:45pm this afternoon and make a 2 hour drive up to our hotel in Lillehammer, Norway where we’ll be racing next week!  Our hotel is supposed to have Internet access, so I should be able to update as I progress throughout the week.

While I have your attention, I also have a couple very LARGE Thank Yous to dole out.  First, thank you to Dr. Lee Lausch of Proactive Pain Relief and Wellness in Ephrata, PA.  I’ve been getting treated and adjusted by Dr. Lausch since I was in high school, and he hooked me up with some great supplements to keep me feeling healthy while on tour.  Thank You!

My second Thank You goes out to Ingham’s Powder Coating in Stevens, Pa.  Upon my return home, I got a very nice surprise in the form of a very generous donation toward my travel expenses for my trip to Europe.  For those of you who don’t know, although I made the National Team this year, I am only partially funded up to $2,000.  Once I hit that mark, I am responsible for paying everything.  Just to put it in perspective, my round trip flight to Europe and back cost $1000, and that’s not including the excess baggage fees– usually around 100 Euro one-way– I’ll accrue because of toting an overweight sled bag.  Ingham’s donation will really help defray these costs and for that, I am seriously grateful.

Well, that’s all I have for now, and my brain is starting to hurt from a lack of sleep.  I’ll update again once I’m in Lillehammer and settled into our apartment.  G’night!