04:35 the alarm sounds. Holy Crap its early. Out of bed, light the fire. Grab a banana get Bailey up and off to the car. Two hours to Lake Placid.
Yup, its Luge Sunday.
Yesterday was the opening day of the luge season. And as I said last week, I was decidedly in the wrong space to slide. After the two hour drive we arrived at the track. It was a perfect morning to slide. “Cool” (about 20 degrees), clear and about to be sunny. The sliders meet at the “sled shed” to gear up, check in, and talk smack. I felt quiet. I didn’t have that real quezzy feeling, but I was definitely quiet. I was nervous. Then my friends from the club came and we started talking smack. Things started to fall into place.
Most of the sliders there today had slide Saturday night and so they had already gotten past their first run nerves. The case of first day nerves was left for Bailey and I.
Bailey went before I did in the sliding order. His first run was 47.8 seconds (From our starting location the course the record for singles is about a 44.3, though I seem to have ignited a debate on the official record time this point. Regardless anything from 45.5 down is really fast. 45.5-47 is fast. 47-50 is good. Above 50 is needs work range.) A really good first run of the year for Bailey. Then it was my turn. Here is a track map to orient you:
On the start handles. Surprisingly I didn’t feel sick at that point. Maybe I was just beyond it and resigned. Maybe I was focused. You make the call. Face shield on. I didn’t pull off hard on the first start (It’s Ok to “Live Dangerously”, but there is no reason to be stupid about it). Onto the track (start 4), settle down onto the sled. Get my bearings. Check my position on the sled. Into the first couple of turns. Its pretty flat in the first section, but at the end of the first real turn you are on (the big sweeping right just after the start) the course drops off and speeds up. The first challenge in the course is the Labyrinth. Its a 3 turn (left, right, left) combination. I ended last year struggling with this section. Into the first turn well positioned. Into the second turn a little “loop” (up the turn, down in the middle, up at the end) not a great way to go through the corner. But I knew what was going on and so a little correction to keep myself off the wall before the 3rd turn ( :-D). Out of the Labyrinth. Into Benham’s Bend, a big right hand corner that empties into the Chicane (another spot where you can find the wall, as I did in my YouTube video. BTW. My problem in that video actually began in the first turn of the Labyrinth. The troubles cascaded. Luge is a sport where you need to leave your troubles behind you!) If you have done the Labyrinth well then Benham’s sets up well; And if you do Benham’s well, you get a hole shot into the Chicane. As the video shows that is another spot that I have had trouble. (Not just my own personal place for trouble though. I cannot claim sole rights to “ping ponging” down the chicane.) When I came out of Benham’s Bend I tensed and anticipated having trouble so corrected to stay off the right wall when I didn’t really need to. That resulted in me having to correct a couple of more times, but no contact with the wall. The final challenge in the course is “The Heart” another 3 curve combination. This part of the course is fast and tricky. If you do it wrong, you can get hurt. That’s where I had my crash and concussion last year….. one turn from the finish line. I over steered the first corner in the combination but corrected and got through mostly cleanly. Up hill to the finish. Down in 49.1. Not my fastest time by far, but mostly clean. I felt totally relieved.
Back to the top for three more runs. I ended up sliding two more good runs, and one sketchy run. I kept my sled off the wall and slide a couple of 48.5’s. My best time ever is 47.9 so I was really happy with my day.
Bailey? Well he rocked it. He slide a couple of 47.8’s. Then a 47.5 Then he proclaimed he was going to break the 47 second mark (i.e. 46.???). He proceeded to slide a 47.000. He missed it by 1/1000’s of a second. (Can you even imagine how fast 1/1000’s is?) Bailey had a 5th run (I only took 4 runs, I get sloppy after 4. Again its OK to live dangerously but not stupidly). Down he came: 47.003. Off by 3/1000’s of a second. I was at the finish watching. He took off his face shield and proclaimed “I quit” with a smile on his face. A good day for him as well. Bailey has come a long way in his sliding. I remember the scared 11 year old who used to be so sick he looked like he would throw up before sliding. Now he has found his mojo and just loves the sport. He’s sliding for himself, not to make any team, and is having fun with it. Its turned internal to him. Along the way he has grown and found an inner strength. I think both of those are great.
Props go to my friends Jim Waterhouse and Luke “Baby Face” Franco who both slide their personal best times today.
Couple of notes for me from today.
1. Stop anticipating bad things are going to happen, Doug. When you are well set up, trust it and let the sled run.
2. Better form will give faster times. (This is my real problem and what I need to concentrate on. Lots of room for improvement here.)
3. It was fun to slide today. I am glad I got that out of the way and am looking forward to the rest of the season. Next week is a club race. And then the following week is the US National Masters Championship. Told the guys I have been sand bagging for the last 3 years and I am coming for glory in two weeks ;).
BTW. When you set up this course well, its a lot of fun. This is what I feel like when I set up Benham’s Bend and get the hole shot into the Chicane. There is a moment of doubt when you get into the corner, but if you stay calm and relaxed (and if your line was right) you do nothing and shoot out the other side, fast and true. Its awesome……….maybe the most awesome part of the track.