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….
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.
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. 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).