Welcome to Whistler!

The past few days have gone by in a blur. And so has the track!

The trip to Whistler was quite eventful.  I flew out of the Philadelphia Airport on an overnight flight with a few teammates, landing in Vancouver at 1am only to find that the car rental agency closed early.  Afraid they would give our car away, we slept in the airport so that we could get to their desk first thing in the morning to snag our car (err, minivan…don’t judge, all of our gear fits in the back!).  Luckily they honored our reservation and gave us our sweet ride!

(From L to R) Ryan, Meghan, Kristina and I

My teammates and I spent the morning touring Vancouver before making the 2 hour drive north to Whistler.  Vancouver is beautiful- such a cool city surrounded by water.  After chatting with the local who snapped this shot, we found out we lucked out with the weather- it had been pretty overcast, grey and rainy over the past few days and Sunday was a welcome relief with the sunshine.  We definitely weren’t complaining!

Sea-to-Sky Highway

The fantastic weather extended through our drive up to Whistler.  We took Highway 99- also known as the Sea-to-Sky highway- to get to Whistler and the drive was stunning.  99 is a pretty winding highway with incredible views of the Howe Sound and surrounding mountains. My photo to the left hardly does the view justice- it was taken very quickly on my iPhone through the windshield of the van (hence the glare and reflection) but at least it gives you a clue as to what we saw!

Monday was our first day at the track and we were all really anxious/excited/nervous for our first trips down the track.  Whistler is a VERY fast track and has quite a reputation because of its technicality.  It’s been a year since I’ve slid down a brand new track (I’ve slid Park City and Calgary so far this year, but I competed on those tracks last year so I knew them before I got there this season) and it’s taken a lot of studying and watching Point-of-Views of the track to prep for our first day.  I won’t lie, I felt some butterflies in my stomach!

The Start at Whistler…definitely not a bad view!

Because of how technical the track is, we had to take our first trips from Ladies Start, which enters into Curve 3.  Even so, I still clocked 127 kph (about 78mph) on my first run!  CRAZY! Today I’ll move up to Start 1 to take my first runs from the top and I’m really excited.  The speed will be slightly faster than from Ladies, but I’ll hit that speed sooner and carry it longer than from the lower start.  The extra speed usually makes steering through the track easier, but also means that if you get yourself into trouble, it’ll be hard to fix it because everything happens so fast.  So in addition to fast thoughts, think some safe thoughts today too!  Thanks for following!  More to come later!


North America’s Cup: Calgary

Another series of races down!

The past two races of the North America’s Cup Circuit led us to Calgary, Canada.  After a very snowy, very looooong drive to the Great White North, we were all very anxious to get moving, get back on our sleds to conquer the track!

The Exit of Curve 8: A long straightaway to spend thinking about how to drive Kreisel. This exit is where the speed trap is…I clocked around 120 km/h!

Calgary is similar to Park City in that there are many turns that require the most minimal steering for the quickest lines and downtimes.  However, Calgary is the only North American track that contains a “Kreisel.”  A Kreisel is a 270-320 degree turn in which sliders undergo three oscillations before exiting the curve.  Timing is crucial in a kriesel: mis-timing your steers can lead to a slow time or worse, getting picked up at the end of the curve and either catching some major air or blitzing the wall (and your shoulder!) upon the exit.

I was last in Calgary in February with the ICC tour and I made a lot of improvements, mainly concerning my exit of tricky Curve 8.  Because of its design, a lot of first timers end up exiting this curve on their side and spend a 100 meter long straightaway trying to flip back over before entering Kriesel.  While I managed not to come out on my side when I first slid Calgary in November, I did usually exit into the right wall and spent the entire straightaway skidding into Kriesel.  In case you were wondering, that’s not a fast line.

Check me out- a little toe steering and I finally exited this curve like a champ! No hard hits!

In February, I learned how to exit 8 properly (and gain a TON of speed) only to lose it on my exit of Kriesel.  The hits I took out of that curve are to this day the hardest hits I think I’ve taken anywhere, other than my crash last season.  This time around, I wanted to conquer this curve!  And with a lot of focus and patience, I did! I had some of my best ever exits out of Kreisel on this trip.  It. was. awesome.

I ended up placing 9th in both races in Calgary and while I’m disappointed with the outcome, I’m trying to focus on the big picture.  One of my major goals this season is to push faster at the start and to set new personal records on any tracks that I re-visit this year.  I achieved both of those goals on both race days, although with the fast ice conditions, was hoping to shatter my old PRs.  It’s easy to lose sight of those achievements when your eye is on the podium versus your own progress.

Anyway, I’m currently on my way back home to Pennsylvania for the Thanksgiving holiday before packing up again on Saturday for Vancouver, Canada where I’ll slide and compete in 3 more North America’s Cup races at Whistler!  Thanks for following, and Happy Thanksgiving!

North America’s Cup: Park City

3rd Place Podium!

Park City: Check!

NAC Races #1 & #2 are complete and I couldn’t be happier with my results.  For those of you who aren’t on Facebook, I placed 3rd in the first race and 4th in the second race. I came away with new PR downtimes (51.30) and a new PR push (5.15) and was only .03 seconds away from 3rd on the second race despite popping the groove at the start. Subsequently, my push time that run was much slower, but I still posted the 3rd fastest time of the heat.  Although I was mad about my start, I now know that I can pull it together and still lay down a good run even when things go wrong at the start and the timing eye is quickly counting down to zero.

Pushing at the start…notice how my sled looks uneven: that’s because the right runner is in a groove to keep my sled straight!

SIDE NOTE: I just realized that some of you may not know what “popping the groove” is.  At the skeleton start, you put one of your runners in a groove.  This keeps your sled in a straight line as you push at the start.  If you pop out of the groove before you cross the first timing eye, you can put your sled back in the groove and run back to the starting block and restart.  If you pop the groove when you load onto your sled, you’re kind of screwed.  You usually skid into the first curve, drastically slowing down your run.  Less speed at the top equals less speed you carry at the bottom of the track!

The snow outside our hotel in Helena. Doesn’t quite do the conditions we drove in justice!

A few hours after the races ended, my teammates and I started the trek up to Calgary, Canada for our next two races.  Unfortunately, about 5 hours into the 14 hour trip, we hit some really awful, snow-filled conditions.  We saw at least 3 jack-knifed tractor trailers and 3 more that were on their backs.  It was pretty frightening.  Because of how bad the roads were (and because we were driving a mini-van without 4-wheel drive!) we ended up spending the night in Helena, MT and then finished the trip the next morning.  Needless to say, we were really happy when we finally reached the house our team is staying at in Calgary!

Calgary is currently MUCH colder than it was in Park City.  It was about -3 Fahrenheit outside and really snowy when we arrived yesterday and it only got to about 12 degrees today.  It’s a big adjustment, but at least it’ll make for faster ice!  Official training starts Monday!  Thanks for following, more to come later!

Team Trials: The Selections

It’s been a wild and crazy past few weeks!  So I’ll start off by apologizing to all of the friends and family that I haven’t been in such close contact with over the past few days. It takes a lot of work and focus to prep for races that determine your entire season, so I spent most of my time on sled prep, track notes and sleep…this altitude is tiring!

We had our final team trials races last night, followed by a selection meeting.  Even though I place 3rd overall in Team Trials, I will be racing on the America’s Cup this season.  Here’s how it works:

– The US women only have four spots on the National Team this year: 2 on World Cup and 2 on ICC.  We “lost” a sled from last year because another country beat us out in points to claim it over us.  So like I said, four spots.

– Several athletes had a bye onto tour because of previous performances or medical issues.  So that only left 2 spots open.

– Noelle Pikus-Pace is making a comeback for the 2014 Games and came into Team Trials in full stride.  She slid amazingly well (I really mean awesome) and won all four races, earning herself a spot on the ICC tour.  Kimber Gabryszak, a World Cup slider, placed second at Trials and was named to the World Cup tour.  And thus, all the National Team spots are full!

Overall, I’m super pleased with how I performed during trials, as are the coaches.  As a whole, the women’s side is getting much deeper, which is really exciting to see.  While it’s disappointing to finish ranked so well at trials and still not make the National Team, the women just don’t have the sleds on tour this year.  If we had the quota of sleds we did last year, the outcome would be different.  But the coaches helped me to make this decision and are confident that I’ll continue to slide well.  And changes happen over the course of the season, so you never know what will happen!

So here’s what the first half is looking like: I’ll race in Park City on Wednesday & Thursday.  We’ll drive up to Calgary, Canada and race there on November 15th & 16th. Tentatively, I’ll come home for Thanksgiving and then fly out to Vancouver, Canada to race at Whistler!  We’ll spend a week doing some paid training and then race on December 7th, 8th & 9th.

That’s all I have for now!  I have some serious planning to get done over the next day or so, and I think I’ve earned myself a nap.  I do want to send a huge thank you out to all of my friends, family and followers.  Your positive thoughts and messages are so encouraging, and I’m truly convinced I have the best supporters around.  It means so much to me to have such kind, caring and optimistic people in my life.  THANK YOU!