Sometimes I think that luge would be more fun if it had a little more WWE or MMA or even NBA attitude. Here try this…..
First cue the music (go ahead open the link in another window, then come on back here, this will be fun)
Now with the music playing, and in the best imitation you can do of Kim, the Lake Placid track announcer’s voice (OK any announcer voice will do, just hurry up the music is playing) imagine hearing:
And now, Hailing from Potsdam NY, And sliding in his third Empire States Games………….The track is now clear for Doug “Thunder” Boohhhhlllllllllll…….
Yeah OK that might be over the top. But those of you who slide can’t say you haven’t had this vision at least once! (I know some of you may have had this vision with someone more like Culture Club or Duran Duran instead of AC/DC…Stratton….but still you had the vision.)
You can stop the music now (or you can let it go, your choice).
Today’s post is about how I got the nickname Thunder.
Now I am a guy. And like all guys one of the things that attracts me to a sport is the cool stuff. Like, I love my bikes. I really love my bike gps. The singular best piece of “stuff” in luge is the sled. When you start sliding they give you something that is called a “training sled” to learn on. They look something like this:
Its basically a fiberglass board between two runners (kufens). That’s pretty much it. Its a basic sled that gets you down the hill. They are typically not really fast. And so while you trundle down the mountain on your training sled, your friends blaze down the track on their racing sleds (often times sleds they own, and sleds they have personalized). Of course this leaves you with a serious case of equipment envy. Clearly, you think while you are sitting at the start waiting for your run….
“I’ve got this under control. Its time for a racing sled.”
Now the “experts” (i.e. the people who have the cool, personalized racing sleds) will tell you not to rush getting onto a racing sled. Stay with the trainer. Learn good form and good habits. A racing sled is going to punish you for bad form. Yadda Yadda Yadda. (Clearly they just want to keep you going slower than they are. I mean come on what other real reason could there be? Right?)
I ignored this advice. (I mean you had a great first year. I never crashed or anything. I never really had any trouble. And it would be so cool to have my own sled!) And home came my own racing sled over the summer.
Sleek, aerodynamic, customized. Ready to rock and roll.
The first night I had this sled the coach brought it out to the track. They were putting it together for me to make sure it was done properly.
“It’s all set right?” (I asked nervously)
“Take a run. Tell me if it is pulling. I brought my tools.” The coach replies. WTF? No, no. It is supposed to be right, that’s why you all were working on it! But off you go. I ended that night with my first ever 81 (crash). It was a harbinger of things to come.
My year of sliding last year was a textbook course on learning how to slide on a racing sled (AKA what happens when your form is less than optimum and you are on a racing sled). You see it turns out that those guys who had the cool sleds, that were all customized and what not (i.e the guys with experience and who knew what they were talking about)….Well they were right. (Sorry guys) A racing sled is not as forgiving as a training sled. (Huh so that’s why you start on a training sled) And so I spent last year learning how to slide all over again. It didn’t always go well. I made all of the classic mistakes. “Late into 12? Oh yeah we all did that when…” Etc. Etc. Here I love a good visual. This is Bailey during the Fall Ice Breaker Race
His head is up a bit, but not too bad.
Here I am in the same race, at the same place on the track
There is so much wrong with that picture, I will just let the whole “a picture is worth a 10oo words” thing speak for it. (I think even my non-sliding, friends can tell that run is pretty much FUBAR)
In Lake Placid our track announcer is Kim. She is a great announcer, but her hobby is picking on us adults when we slide. (My best equipment purchase EVERY was a luge helmet. Blocked out Kim’s voice when I slide. Now I only hear her when I am done.) When Bailey did his run Kim said something to the effect “There goes Bailey through turn 14. WAY better than his dad. Doug do you know ANYTHING about aerodynamics?” There was an audible groan from the adults at the finish house. Yeah, I deserved it.
My runs. Well they got better as the year went on. I felt like was starting to put it together. Periodically I would toss in a real stinker just to keep it interesting (stinkers came often enough that I pretty much kept my bruised right arm and left foot for the entire season). Here are my finish times for the year. Some reference. A really good time is about 45-46 seconds (a really, really good time is in the 44 second range, you get a sticker for that). My best time was 47.877 seconds. My trend is downward. So I put myself in the not completely hopeless category. (All those upward blips? Yeah sore arms!)
The highlight of the season? Masters again hands down. Last year it was in Park City Utah. That track is very fast (faster than Lake Placid) but the ice was smooth and the track just “flows” better. I crashed once (Bailey thought that was hilarious. I got my revenge, though that is a story for another time) and found the wall a couple of times. But I ended up 4th. Not bad. Park City was definitely awesome. Big thanks to the Wasatch Luge Club for that experience.
(First moose I ever saw in the wild was next to the track in Utah)
My low point of the season? Crashing hard in Lake Placid after I came back from Utah. I got in my head a little, let my attention drift and crashed one turn before the finish line. (So late into turn 18 I knew it was going to be bad.) A bruised right shoulder and left foot plus a slight concussion. My worst luge injury to date. I was medically cleared to slide a week later, but I withdrew from the club race and waited for a couple of weeks to slide again.
My other high point of the season? Finishing first at the Spring Thaw Race. My first luge podium, and it was a gold. (Great first run, really tried my best to throw it away on the second run, but managed to make a big save, and win the race). No better way to end the season.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about a quandary I was having. I was feeling decidedly mixed about sliding this year. See, I am racing in a little mountain bike race next August. One for which I am actually going to formally train, with a coach/trainer. One that I didn’t want to put into jeopardy by hurting myself sliding. Well. There is ice on the track. It opens next week. And we have our first club sliding dates on the calendar. Yeah I’m going to slide.
It will be a nice diversion away from training. So ADKer’s I will see you out at the track. Master’s sliders? I may not be the fastest, but I am getting better. Watch out. Remember it takes 2 runs to finish a race. I intend on finishing all of my runs. (Head and shoulders back, relaxed, long and lean.)
If you don’t slide but are thinking about trying luge….and have the opportunity….Do it. Even if you only do it once, it is something you can brag about for the rest of your life (people will think you are an uber dare devil!) If you decide to continue, you will find an awesome family in the sport. The people make the experience.
Oh and you may be asking. What about “Thunder”? This post was supposed to be about you being named Thunder. That name was given to me by Luke Franco, ADK Luge Club slider. It was given to me because of the noise I make going down the track. You know, the sound my sled and I make when we crash into the wall? It kind of sounds like thunder. (Luke “old man baby face” Franco, I am calling you out. You are going to get a nickname this year be warned!). But you know what? I am embracing the nickname. Its a good name because its also the sound something makes when it is going fast enough to break the sound barrier! (Kim I do know a thing or two about aerodynamics ;))