It was luge time Saturday night. It had been a couple of weeks since we had track time and I was looking forward to it. The weather was perfect: mid teens. The ice should be fast and drivable.
We got three runs. My first two were, well, not my best efforts of the season (nothing new there). And so it was time for my last run of the night. I was bound and determined to get my trouble area dialed in and tame this stupid track.
Believe it or not, the start is sometimes the most exciting part of a run. That might be a little difficult to understand since the speeds are so slow, but the issue is that there is a lot going on. Here is a Youtube video from the 2002 Olympics of some starts. (As an aside Ashley Hayden, who was the first women on the video, well she was our coach Saturday night. Pretty cool I must say!) But I digress. Having a lot going on means a lot can go wrong. Remember that a luge sled is most stable when you lay flat on it with your shoulders back. When you are starting you sit up on the sled (the least stable position to be in on a sled). You have to pull off straight. If you are doing a real start you have to paddle on the ice (there are spikes on the finger tips of the gloves). Then you have to skootch your butt up to the proper location on the sled. Then you have to lay down. Then you have to get your hands into the sled. Every motion there is a potential act of steering on the sled. And your reward for doing all of that is that you have to make a hard left hand turn to actually get off the ramp and onto the track.
Sliding lesson over. Time for run 3. Onto the sled. Grab handles. Pull off. A little not straight. Lay down on the sled and a little more off line. Hands into the sled. At the bottom of the start ramp I touch the left wall which turns my sled just a little bit to the right (like bouncing a pool ball off a bumper). Start ramps usually enter a track on a corner. The idea being that it is easier to get onto a track when you are on a corner. The corner kind of scoops you up and guides you onto the track. When I cam off the wall at the end of the start ramp I was aimed more up the corner than with the corner and so I went up the curve instead of onto the curve. Then I came off my sled.
Sliders are taught that when you come off your sled you need to keep a hold of it. I was sliding on my butt with my sled in my right hand. I could hear the track announcer “Doug is making his way SLOWLY from curve 9 into curve 10.” It was decision time.
I still had almost a mile of track ahead of me. That’s a lot of track, with a lot of vertical drop. Do I try to climb back on and slide to the bottom, or do I bail on the run. WTF. Back onto the sled (it really is the fastest way to the bottom ;)).
I had my problems in the same part of the track on the 3rd run. But i got to the bottom. Ashley (our coach the Olympian) met me at the finish. “Doug, your line into curve 12 (my nemesis) was perfect. Then you steered too hard at the beginning of the curve and drove the sled off the curve (i.e. I steered off the curve before the end of the curve). You had so much curve left that the sled went hard back onto the curve and gave you a real hard entrance into the next curve.” Oh, light bulb moment. Thanks Ashley!