The 2012-2013 FIBT Skeleton season is underway with a bang!
It was an extremely successful beginning in Park City for the North American Cup team, and included three gold medals and a few podium finishes as well. As I was not racing, I did what I could to help my team with sled carrying, transportation and everything else having to do with racing.
Following the final race in Park City, the four girls racing next loaded our sleds and luggage into a nice minivan (WITH automatic doors, much to our delight) and started the drive up to Calgary, Alberta Canada!
There had been a huge storm forecast to hit Park City on Friday, so we decided to book it after the awards ceremony held on Thursday to get ahead of the storm. While our good weather held out for the first several hours, when we hit Northern Idaho and southern Montana, the snow began to fall. Exhausted from the week of training and competing, and a little weary of driving on the snow-covered roads through the mountains of Montana, we decided to rent a cheap hotel room and (we hoped) wait out the storm.
Upon waking the next morning, the hope that we had for the snow to pass proved to be a lost cause. The snow had continued to fall. There was no choice for us but to move on. Driving about 45MPH, it took us another 10 or 12 hours to get up to Calgary. Of course, once we hit the border of Canada, all snow ceased and the roads cleared. Who knew?
My first trip (as an adult) across the border proved uneventful, the biggest adjustment coming when we had to find out where to read the KPH numbers on the speedometer.
It seemed a considerably shorter trip after that, though Calgary was still four hours away.
We had a day or so to settle in to our new accommodations and a few days off before official training began. I got to watch some teammates take their first runs down the Olympic track, which just made me more excited to slide.
It was a new experience, sliding three days of Official Training before a race. It was something I had never done before, and truth be told, I was a little nervous because of it. I was at a big disadvantage, as a majority of the sliders in the race had competed at Canada Olympic Park before. I was one of the few “rookies” to navigate the track.
Calgary is a “glider’s” track, which in layman’s terms is a flatter track with not much technicality involved. To compare, Lake Placid is a very technical track, one that good drivers excel on. In Calgary, there are a number of places to lose time, in fact, it’s more maintaining what speed you do get across the entire track. There are a few curves that must be done correctly, or a slider will find themselves on their backs upon exiting.
I am happy to say I didn’t have much problem with Curve 8, a turn notorious for sucking a slider back into itself and flipping them at the exit if the curve is not navigated properly. I also didn’t have a problem with the Kreisel, a 270 degree curve immediately after Curve 8. My issues with Calgary stemmed from more of a mental point.
Sometimes during a training run, one just feels “off”. It’s hard to explain, but it’s rather like a bad day at work, where you really don’t know what the problem is, you just know there’s a problem. That describes almost the entirety of my Calgary experience. The track, quite a simple one compared to others in the world, just didn’t make sense to me. Where does one get speed? Where does one maintain it? How exactly were the curves working? All these questions were in my head at one point or another, but I just didn’t have an answer to them.
The start ramp was another issue for me. After the short, quick start of Park City, Calgary’s felt like a marathon run.
Normally one of the fastest starters, I had a lot of trouble pushing my best. All of these things compounded to make my experience one of the tougher ones of my young career. But I can’t be too upset, because on race day, between my two runs I had a 2 second Personal Record, as well as a personal record push. My finish position was not what I wanted at all (13th) but it’s very hard to have qualms with such a big improvement on race day.
What a thrill it was to be sliding with the caliber of athletes who attended! Quite apart from sliding with Noelle Pikus-Pace, a 2010 Olympian who placed 4th at the Games, I was able to compete with several countries, including Russia, Australia, Korea and Canada. For me, the best part was being able to gain knowledge through Noelle. She was having some troubles with the FIBT involving her sled, and as a result, she actually took my sled down for a run. Naturally, I asked her about her run, how my sled handled, and everything that goes with it. I got some great insight from her, and later, some advice on future equipment. And of course, I had the opportunity to pick her brain about sliding, lines, and techniques. To her credit, Noelle was patient, cheerful, and so helpful not only to me, but to the entire US team. To be able to slide with her is a privilege, but it’s also great fun (her kids are a hoot as well!).
Overall, I’m so thankful to have been able to go to Calgary at all. It was a new track under my belt, a new challenge with 6 training runs before the race, and my first trip to Canada! I’m so fortunate to have been able to compete, and the experiences I gained there will help me in my future. I’m excited to go back next season (which I hope I will) and improve my sliding there.
As always, thanks for reading, keep moving forward, and enjoy life!