Winter

For the life of me, there is one thing I cannot understand. Yeah OK, there are lots of things I don’t understand, but as with many of the posts I write this lack of understanding focuses on one thing: Why do people who hate winter and snow live way up north?

I love winter. I love snow. This is hands down one of my favorite days: 25F, Sunny, no wind. I could spend all day outside in conditions like that.

Last winter, well we didn’t really have a winter. And it was lame.

This fall I’ve gotten a lot of riding in. The weather has been cool but not cold. We haven’t had any real snow. Good for my Leadville training, bad for the love of winter. It was so bad it was looking like we were going to have a brown Christmas this year.

Then last Friday a wonderful thing happened. The rain storm we were supposed to get, well it was a snow storm. The forecasters totally missed the mark. We got about 4″ of snow. It was heavy and wet, but it was snow. Looking at the forecast, a white Christmas was assured. On Christmas day we had more snow. How could you not like that?

Then Thursday came. The forecast snow depths got deeper and deeper. The day before the storm we were up to 12-16″ of snow forecast. We woke up in the morning to this:

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We got 16″+Ā  by the time it finished. Even the dog, was excited….

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It’s not all good. My sister-in-law is coming up from Texas for a visit. Her flight was cancelled and she was delayed a day. My mother-in-law was supposed to come up too and she was forced to turn around an head home. My outdoor bike riding season has closed out for a little while. But on the flip side, today’s Leadville training was this:

noah_winter_ski1

An absolutely perfect, powder day on the slopes. So yeah, I love winter. Even if it means I have to bike inside on a trainer for a couple of weeks. Even if it means travel is a bit a of mess sometimes. I wouldn’t give it up.

(Oh, and if you don’t like winter, please don’t live where there is winter.)

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Monday Morning Slider: Its not (all) my fault

I think I am pretty good about being honest with what I can and cannot do. I know that I have a lot of learning to do on a luge sled. I know that I cause many of my own problems when I slide. I also have a pretty good idea when I get to the bottom how well I have done. Maybe not to the 1/100 of a second but certainly I know what a “good” or “OK” or “bad” or even “horrible” run feels like and what it means as far as time.

This weekend I went to Lake Placid to slide on Saturday evening and then on Sunday morning. A nice double luge session to end December. It was snowing on Saturday (winter finally came to the North Country) and very windy. The snow/wind combination means that you are going to get some snow on the track. Snow means slow times.

First slider goes off. And his time was OK. Maybe the track wasn’t so bad. My turn comes along and off I go. Down to the bottom: 50.016. Dang that was slow. OK. I botched the start and my form was poor. Back to the top. Better start, better form, no really problems 49.880. Seriously? Lets just skip to the end of this debacle. I slide 4 runs. 2 were right around 50 even, two were 49.7 (ish). Bad times. I chalked it up to the start ramp. My sled didn’t feel like it was gliding well when I was on the start handles. Snow on the start ramp, clearly the problem.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. The track is cleared of snow. The temps are about 15F (fast but drivable ice). I’m ready to go. Onto the handles. I pull off lay back on the sled. From the start the sled was pulling to the right. I horsed it down to the bottom. Another crappy time. Jim, the club president, was coaching. The coach watches you slide and tells you what you are doing right or (more likely in my case) wrong. I said my sled was pulling. He said my shoulders were up. OK. Mission 1 get the shoulders down.

Run 2. Much better form. Shoulders down. Pretty clean. Pretty good. Up the out ramp and I stopped early up the ramp (meaning I wasn’t going fast). My time? 49.169. Seriously? That run was way better than that. I know it was cleaner than that. Back to the top. 3rd run: 49.264. 4th run: 49.051. OK. Good news/bad news (as usual). Its a good thing to slide consistent runs. And those runs were all pretty consistent. I had my shoulders back and didn’t make any really bad mistakes. Only thing….the times were not anywhere close to what they should have been.

Onto my 5th and final run. Off the handles. On the track. Back on the sled. The sled immediately pulled to the right. Crap. (BTW. It is not my favorite thing to be at the start of a run, with a sled that is misbehaving. There is a lot of track to run before the end.) I horsed it down the track again. Jim asked the usual questions:

“What did you feel in this corner?”

“Jim we need to look at my sled, there is something wrong with it.”

“What happened?”

“Its pulling to the right, and none of my times are close to where they should be for how I slide the runs. There is something wrong.”

When everyone finished we looked at my sled. The steel runner on the right side was all messed up. Looks like that side must have hit something on the track. A little discussion and we find out that others had the same thing happen, to the same side of their sleds, Saturday evening.

My steels are so bad that they are going to need an expert to look at (and fix) them.

It’s nice to slide and feel like you are making progress. It’s a little frustrating to do that and not seeing the results. Luckily I have something to blame it on. It’s not my fault…Well not all of it anyway. Four weeks till the next sliding session.

Busted

I was cooking dinner the other day when I heard a yell from the living room. “No no! You are not allowed to think about this until Leadville is finished next summer.” Coreen intercepted my mail. She found something that, on most days, since I get home first, I would have safely moved out of mail. But there I was busted.

This story actually starts last summer:

“I’m going to do something hard on my bike, something epic.”

“You are going to do Tour Divide aren’t you.”

“No, that would be crazy. I’m going to race Leadville.”

So what is crazier than racing in Leadville? Well funny thing, quite a lot actually. But what is important here are the two words: Tour Divide.

Tour Divide is an underground mountain bike race. It goes from Banff AB to Antelope Wells NM along the continental divide. Yes boys and girls, if you are keeping score, that’s a trans American mountain bike race that goes along the steepest mountains in the lower 48. Pretty crazy. And while they did make a movie about it, and it has grown men crying, there was no grown men throwing up in the movie and so it was easy to pick Leadville over Tour Divide.

OK, back up. Your babbling Doug. Get to the point. (Thanks voice, now shut up).

I own the movie and a couple of weeks ago, while I was on my trainer inside, I popped the movie into the DVD player and watched. And a couple of things happened. First, the sound track to the move is totally fantastic. If you go over to Chris’s Blog and scroll to the bottom you can listen to the music. Then you can go over to iTunes and buy it. (Hope the big move is going well Chris!) The second thing that happened was I was filled with a total sense of rightness. I cannot really describe it as anything else. I mean how can you argue with this..

tourdivide1

or this….

tourdivide2

I want to do a transcontinental bike ride. I want to see the country that way. I realized, and it wasn’t an epiphany, it was just a quiet sense of understanding, that I wanted to ride this course. Turns out Coreen was right last year.

So why was she all mad at me? Tour Divide was started by the people at the Adventure Cycling Association. They have a fantastic web site (go look) on which you can sign up for a free information packet. Which I did. Which was mailed to my house. Which was intercepted by my super awesome, loving, understanding, patient, fun, beautiful wife.

Monday Morning Slider: Staying on the Sled

One of the difficult things about being a club slider is that we don’t get any real consistent track time. Its has been two weeks since I crashed out of the Masters race and I haven’t been on the track since then. That lack of regular sliding does a couple of things. First, its really hard to get yourself out of a “slump”. You can’t keep at it till you figure it out. You cannot come back the next day and try it again. The other thing it does is give you a lot of time to think (and that’s not always a good thing).

We finally had some time on the ice this weekend. It’s Bailey’s Birthday (today’s the actual B-day, Happy Birthday Bailey!) and he decided he didn’t want to slide. He wanted to party with his friends. Fair enough, but I wanted to get onto the track. So off I went.

I was a little edgy, but not overly so. Getting to the sled shed and prepping to slide always helps tamp that down and I felt OK going into the session. The weather was warm and the while the track was fairly fast it was grippy and drivable.

My first run was OK. What was the best thing I could say about it? I made it down in one piece and didn’t hit any walls. My second run was faster, and my third run was faster yet. Then a funny thing happened.

I slide my 4th run. It felt pretty good. No real huge mistakes. I looked up at the clock and the run was slow. Slowest of the day. Huh? WTF? The temps were going up and there was a little snow falling onto the track and so the track was slowing a little bit. But for the life of me I could not figure out why my time was what it was. Looking at my split times I was just not carrying my speed.

Usually I only do 4 runs a session. I tend to get sloppy after 4 (Yeah, I know, I tend to be sloppy before that, but its worse after 4 runs OK? Leave me alone!). But we had time for a 5th and so up I went for a last run. My run was going well. No big problems. Then and the end of the Chicane I drifted into the wall and my sled kicked a little side ways.

There is a funny aspect to luge (OK there are lots of funny aspects to it. Here is another.). When you are in trouble corners are really your friend. They can take your sled which may not be going in the correct direction and guide it into a better direction. That may not be an optimal direction, but usually its something you can work with. So sideways into the Heart I went. The curve straightened out the sled. I was on a funny line but was able to keep myself off of the walls after I exited that curve. Onto the finish. Slow time, BUT not bruises, no broken fiber glass, and no ride in the medical van.

Bailey and I are sliding Saturday and Sunday next weekend. Nice to get a couple of days in a row. Also nice to spend some time alone with Bailey, doing something we both like.

I give myself an OK for this weekend. Sometimes OK is enough.

(BTW, if you can laugh with your friends and go home with a smile on your face, well then it was a pretty darn good day of sliding.)

Faster

Before I get into the meat of today’s post, you might have noticed that this weeks edition of Monday Morning Slider did not happen. There was no sliding this weekend. And no, it wasn’t because I didn’t slide for some reason (like I was hurt, or chicken). We didn’t have any sliding. We are back on the schedule this weekend. Its a perfect way to end Final’s Week.

There were a couple more pictures posted from Masters that I wanted to share. First the forerunner (this is the person who gets to go down the track before the competitors to make sure all the timing stuff is working. It’s considered an honor to do that for a race.) This year’s Master’s Forerunner was one Bailey Bohl. He finished both his runs šŸ˜‰

2013_USLA_Masters_LP_Bailey

I ended up with hugs from my friends…..

2013_USLA_Masters_LP_259 2013_USLA_Masters_LP_287

Coincidentally both of these people finished second in their respective divisions. Jeff, was the defending national champion. He had a very tough road to travel seeing as how we had Luge God Duncan Kennedy in our division. Second was a good result in our group. The other person is Jenny who started sliding the same time I did. She actually beat someone who had been on a junior team as a kid. Not only that but Jenny used a racing sled the weekend of Masters for the first time. She took to it like, well peanut butter takes to chocolate. It was just something that was right.

OK. Today’s (short) post is really about hockey. I have a regular Monday evening hockey game that I play in. It’s, as with many of the things I do, has an interesting story. Our group plays no contact and has a mix of abilities (some played for a long time, some played in college, some started a couple of years ago as old people). Ages run from early 20’s to about 60’s. For the past couple of years I have been a relatively easy mark in the game. I’m slow, not good with the puck, not really good with out the puck, not good with my stick, etc. It’s OK because we are really out there to have fun, get some exercise, and enjoy the fact that we get an awesome time (Monday evenings) on a great sheet of ice (Div. 1 college great) at a ridiculously low rate (its about $100 for 14ish weeks of hockey).

I have felt much better about my hockey play this year. I am getting better about being in the right position. I think this is most noticeable when I am on defense (where I actually feel like I may in fact be doing something useful now. Used to be my “D” stood for desperation.). I actually have a chance of getting the puck away from someone on the other team. I’m not as fast skating when I have the puck, but that stupid little black thing never seems to be doing what I need it to do when I skate with it. I am getting better there too.

It’s hard to tell if I am benefiting from my training program on my bike, but I think it is definitely showing up in my hockey. I’m faster. I can skate harder and longer. Now if I could learn to skate with my head up, things would be much much better.

Monday Morning Slider (Wednesday Edition): US Luge National Masters Race Day

I’m going to start out today with a quote:

“I ran out of gas. I… I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!” : The Blues Brothers (Jake)

On race day you hope for a couple of things. Because there is such a diversity of skill and experience levels you can probably sit down and predict how the race is going to go. In some cases the sliders are close, but for the most part you can predict where things should fall. Yes periodically there will be an upset, but that is usually a result of someone really tanking on a run. I was so far down the line time wise that there was no way I was going to win a medal in this competition. So the real goal is to slide your absolute best and make sure that the person who is ahead of you has to slide their best in order to end up where they should. That’s how we push each other. I was hoping to slide two clean runs at or close to my personal best times.

The first heat is ordered by a random draw. I was 6th out of 7 sliders and followed Duncan. When Duncan pulled off I put my sled down on the track. I never heard his time. I was focusing on what I needed to do. The track was cleared. I pulled and off I went.

I do want to say something here. I have probably said this before, but really this is a highlight for me. I am in a race with a former Olympian. In fact I am following him in the race. I have the opportunity to use a track that is used for international competitions in Luge, bobsled, and skeleton. And for about a minute it is mine. How crazy is that? It still blows my mind.

OK. So I get settled on my sled and onto the track. I feel really low and relaxed on my sled. I get into the Labyrinth and totally pull of the move that has been giving me trouble all week. Into Benham’s bend through and into the Chicane. I felt like my line was good. I knew I had a fast run going. Then I felt this….

chicane sunday race

Laura Murphy who took these pictures has a great camera. That picture is actually a still from a high speed series that she took while I was sliding through the Chicane. This one gives you a much better sense of what I experienced.

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Click on the image. There is a surprise there. Really its totally worth it.

After pounding my way through the chicane I crossed the finish line with a 50.740 run. Total fail. Then the Universe piled more on, well just because. You see during races sliders are chosen at random to be measured. They weight you, your sled, your equipment. They measure your sled. Etc. It called being “controlled”. They do this to make sure that no one is cheating. Its a random draw. And so, of course, I get the random control.

The second run goes in reverse order (slowest to fastest) which meant I was the first one to go on the second run. There was about 30 minutes to calm down and refocus (I was not a happy slider). I felt like I got myself in the right space for my second run.

Onto the handles. Onto the track. Back on the sled. Into the Labyrinth, and things quickly went to heck. Bad transition where I had been having trouble all week. Which set up a bad line through Benham’s bend. Which set up an even more violent ping-pong ride through the chicane. I nearly came off my sled. It might have been better if I had ended my run right there. Into the heart mostly on my sled, but totally out of position. Then about half way through that section off my sled. Game over. (Well except for watching my sled slide back and forth until it came to a rest. I owned the track on that run for about 3 minutes, instead of 1 minute.)

What happened? I’d love to say it wasn’t my fault. I’d love to say that a spectator dropped something into the track. A flash blinded me for an instant. My face shield fogged up. There was an earthquake and my sled was pushed into the wall. But the truth is I screwed up on my first run. My split times show I had a record or near record run going.Ā  One of the club members asked me when I realized I had a fast run going. I could pin point the moment. It came half way through turn 13 when I knew I nailed the upper section. That was the moment my concentration lapsed for just a moment. That’s when I lost my run.

Lesson 1: Don’t bring good things down the track with you.

On the second run? Well I was just completely out of the zone. I was still disappointed. I wasn’t as focused as I thought or needed to be.

Lesson 2: Leave the bad things behind you.

If you add Lesson 1 and 2 you get the following rule: Concentrate only on what is in front of you. Behind you, good or bad, is for later. (That goes for parts of run and whole runs BTW. There is probably something in that for life as well.)

Masters has been the highlight of my sliding season for the past two years. I love that we get to slide for a couple of days (just like we were real athletes). I love that we get to slide with people who are good. I love that we get to see friends, eat, drink, and shoot the shit with them. That’s the cake. The result of the race is the icing. This year my cake was unfrosted (kind of like a brownie), but still tasty.

As a closing thought. I slide two PB’s this weekend. I dropped my best time by about half a second. A couple people who are good slides say I am close. I have some bruises. I have some scrapes. But if I had track time today…I would be there. I have business to finish with the track. Game on.

Next up on the race schedule: Empire State Games (February 10).

Monday Morning Slider (Tuesday Edition): US Luge National Masters Day 2

One of the best things about Masters is getting to spend time with sliders, both new and old. On Friday evening we had a dinner with all of the sliders, friends and families. Ah the things I learned about the “Wild West” Cowboy days of sliding. Days when I would have possibly been an Olympian (turns out the sport originally had what were more or less club sliders going to the Olympics, huh go figure). We were also dazzled with stories of what happens when you let teenagers, who are naturally drawn to something conservative like luge, are left to live together more or less unsupervised. It was quite an enlightening dinner.

Saturday morning was the second day of practice for the race. On Saturday morning we were treated to the presence of one Duncan Kennedy on the track. I’ve mentioned Duncan before.Ā  He went to two Olympic games. He won many international medals in luge. I think I also mentioned he is quite possible the best slider our country has ever produced. (Duncan also happens to be a super nice guy, so he is fun to be with at the track. Duncan will always help you with advice or with your equipment if you need.) When Duncan comes to the track to slide funny things happen. When he slides everything stops. People come out of the start house to watch him start. They listen closely to the split times. Jaws drop when his times are announced. He is just that much better than any of us. Now being a new slider I am SO FAR away from Duncan that what he does really doesn’t concern me. Its just wicked cool to hear “Up next Duncan followed by Doug” over the track PA.

So my first run (following Duncan’s blazing 44.573)? It was good. I had a little skid in the Labyrinth but finished with a pretty good 48.390. Cycle through. Duncan takes a second run: 44.562. I decided to continue my theme of inconsistency and failed in the Labyrinth, careened through the Chicane, and finished with a 52.458 (slowest run of the year). On my third run. I managed to put it together. I stayed back on my sled. Was relaxed. And out popped a 47.642. A new Personal Best.

Here are some visuals.

curve 11 saturday

This is turn 11 (the first corner in the Labyrinth). Head up. Shoulders off the sled. A VERY exciting way to go down the track. (Well exciting if you like pounding your way down the track.)

curve 14 saturday

This is my 3rd run (the PB run) in Benham’s Bend (the curve before the Chicane). Shoulders are down. Body is more relaxed. Pretty good there. But the head is pointing up the track which is not the correct form. I was able to correct and had a clean pass through the chicane.

A remarkable thing happened after I finished my 3rd run. I had a moment of total happiness. This was quickly followed by the realization that I needed to brake so that I would actually stop at the finish house (that really never happened for me before, it was kind of cool). Then I thought about my run and I realized that there were at least two spots on the track where I did something really wrong and I could have gone faster. It wasn’t a disappointing bad thought. It was an exciting realization.

I talked with Duncan after than run. He didn’t slide a 3rd run and watch the rest of us slide.

Duncan hasn’t seen me slide in about a year. He commented that I was much better on the sled and very very close to putting it together.

Time for race day.

(As with yesterday’s post. The pictures in today’s post were taken by Laura Murphy. The pictures from the race, which will be shown tomorrow, are even more awesome. Tune in!)