“Every game is an opportunity to measure yourself against your own potential.” ~Bud Wilkinson
After a summer full of hard workouts, two-a-days, full time work, struggle and success, I finally got to put my training to the test in our first competition of the season.
The annual US Skeleton Push Championships is an opportunity for athletes to show off their prowess on the push start. It takes place on “dry land”, on a little track built specially for start training.
Leading up to the race on Saturday, I did a full push session on Wednesday to adjust my start. On the track at Mt. Van Hoevenburg, I start with my right foot on the left groove. As the push track has rails, it’s impossible to do without breaking a spike (or an ankle!), so I had to change my position to be alongside the sled. It was a challenge, but when I took my final training run on Friday morning, I felt great.
As is often the case in Lake Placid on big days of competition or training, the morning of Push Championships dawned cloudy and raining. Not to be deterred, most athletes warmed up at the Training Center before driving over to the Horse Show grounds to compete.
We have many talented athletes on the skeleton team, and many are fast pushers. Last year, I would have been focusing on the other athletes: what they were doing to prepare, what their times were in training, how they looked on race day.
Almost a year after my difficult Team Trials experience, I’ve learned to focus on my own performance rather than on my teammates’. When I felt thoughts of my competing teammates swimming into my head, I let them go carefully, and turned inwards: was MY first step quick? Was MY warmup enough for MY legs? Was MY push a good one?
My first run of the competition was fast. At 5.41 seconds, it was my own push-track personal record (or PR). But the push itself felt sloppy, and approaching the load, I felt like I was in front of the sled instead of being right beside it on the slope. Riding back up the hill, one of the coaches asked if I had any more in the tank, and when I responded to the affirmative, I KNEW I could do a better push.
I separated myself from the others during the break between first run and second by getting into my car and turning the heat on. I watched the men do their first run in the review mirror as I sweated in the full-blast heat, but when the time came for my second run, I was still warm.
I had been in contact with my coach via text messaging between heats, and his encouragement made me pumped for the second heat. His last message before I started pushed me to give no quarter, and I knew I had to do just that.
There really is no way to describe the feeling of a good push. Some teammates asked me how I felt afterwards and I couldn’t say for sure. Everything clicked: I was in the right position, I kept alongside of the sled throughout the run, and my load was great. As a result, I pushed almost a tenth faster, at 5.34 seconds, .03 seconds off the push track record! That time cemented me in 2nd place!
I am very happy with my success! My goal was to finish top 3, and achieving that helps me see my hard work paying off. I shaved off three tenths off my push time from last year’s championships (where I finished 4th). I know I can do better, but now I have to do better on the ice! I’m hoping my push time will translate on ice, and I’m confident that I’ll be competitive with the fastest pushers in the world.
In the meantime, the leaves are changing color: in fact, they’re in the peak of their change. People from all over the East Coast come up to the Adirondaks to see the colors, and there is even a Foliage Festival this coming weekend. It’s a big deal up in this area! I’m sure it means a full restaurant at work. I’m in my last two weeks at Dancing Bears, trying to earn as much as I can before the season starts.
On that note, a huge thank you to my friend D, who sent me a generous sponsorship donation! With it, I’ll be able to stay in Park City with some teammates during Team Trials, close to the track! I’m so thankful to have that donation.
I am still looking for sponsorship and funding for this season. My own earnings will allow me to stay in North America, if I do make a circuit. However, if I perform well enough, the opportunity to tour in Europe will be there. It’ll only be with help from families, friends, and sponsors that I’ll be able to do it!
If you’d like to help me with finances this season, please don’t hesitate to ask me for information. Donations are tax-deductible when sent to the Utah Bobsled and Skeleton Association:
WRITE ON MEMO LINE: Lauren Salter sponsorship
INCLUDE: Your name and address in a note
SEND IT TO: Utah Bobsled and Skeleton Association
P.O. Box 581131
Salt Lake City, UT 84158
Thank you so much for reading along and following my endeavors! Please leave a comment and never hesitate to ask questions!