Hey I hope you all had a happy holiday. I was off with family, enjoying myself. But I am back. Well the trip WAS a little exciting. Here let’s start with a quiz:

1. What temperature does water freeze at?

2. What happens to the temperature when you go up into the mountains?

OK. Super easy right? Water freezes at 32 F (that’s 0 C if you live outside of the US). And when you go up into the mountains the temperatures go down.

Well, not so fast. Here was the set-up when we left home for the holidays. It was 26 F at my house, and it was raining. Liquid water. But it was so far below the freezing point that the water instantaneously froze when it hit something solid (like my windshield, or the road). Ice storm full on.

Looking at the radar I knew that it was going to warm up as we went up into the mountains. When we got to an altitude of about 1200 ft the temps had jumped up to 46 F.

What we were having was an inversion where warm air rides up over cold air. Rain falls from the warm air and doesn’t have enough time to turn to snow or sleet before hitting the ground. When we drove up into the mountains we went up into the warm air, out of the ice.

Those are the makings of an ice storm. And for the first 20 miles of our trip it was the most treacherous driving I have ever been in. But we made it. And the holidays were great.

When we got back home our driveway was about 6 inches higher than normal (3″ of ice on top of 6″ of snow). After the ice storm we had about 1″ of fresh snow on top.

Today I went outside and discovered that the ice storm gave me a little present. That 3″ of ice? Yeah baby, a luge track waiting to be born. I have a nice little hill in my yard that pretty close in grade to the start ramps on a luge track. I cleaned off a nice start ramp. And when I got to the bottom of the hill? Uh huh, I kept going and put in a nice left hand turn. Of course that required banking. And so Noah and I scooped up all of the snow in the back yard and put a banked left hand turn in. The temps were about 35F so the snow was really packy, making for nice shapability.

Tonight when it got cold out, I grabbed the hose and started to hose down the track. I want to build up a really nice layer of ice. The temps are going to plunge this week, which should allow me to get that really nice thick layer down.

I don’t have my sled right now. It’s getting refurbished (more on that I am sure next Monday). So I am going to have to wait to try it out for real. But anyway, here is what it looks like….home_luge_track-1

(You cannot really see how steep the hill is from this picture. The green arrow is there because there is very little contrast between the track and not the track.)

Picture of the Day





I jumped on the scale the other day for the first time in a month or so. I didn’t really need to (cause I knew what it was going to say) but I did it anyway. It’s wasn’t bad, but it was a sign. I have definitely been slacking this fall. A little less riding/training a little more ice cream. And so a bump (Yes Jeff I know, good for luge). It was good to be honest.

This fall has been very very different from last. It seams the lack of the threat of significant pain at 12,600 feet has reduced my training focus. Go figure.

I also miss having Drew there keeping me on track. And you know, it wasn’t even that he was keeping me on track. It was the idea that he was there keeping me on track. It’s much easier and more motivating to have someone you have to answer to than when you don’t. It takes a lot of self motivation (well for me anyway) to be formal and serious about my training without that person to talk to.

Here’s the thing. I am missing riding outside right now. A friend commented that she was super excited to be riding a lot next summer. Those comments came when it was -20F (yes, there is a MINUS sign in front of that 20). Winter has come on hard and fast up here in the North Country. There is too much winter ahead to be thinking seriously about riding in the summer. If you get yourself thinking that far ahead, well January, February and March become very very long indeed.

I am excited about January. There is going to be a lot of luging in January and February. We have great track time leading up to the Empire State Games in February. (We compete on the same day as the Men compete in the Olympics, pretty cool!) My sled has been completely overhauled. (That should make for some exciting posts just after New Years! Nothing like a new sled to make life interesting on the track). Skiing looks to be getting good. It should be a fast and exciting winter. Oh and let’s not forget that the high school mountain bike team will get rolling. It should be busy and fun.

Irregardless (used that non-word again!), it’s definitely time to get off my tail end and be more serious about my training. So more Sufferfest. I down loaded Blender. It’s 1:44 of intense intervals. Yeah?

2013 Luge World Cup Day 3: Men

As a part of my day job I am working with the US Luge Association on the sled development program (yeah my relationship with US Luge Association is complicated). The athlete we have had the most contact with is Chris Mazdzer. Chris was a part of the 2010 US Olympic Team in Whistler. Since then he has struggled on the World Cup Tour. At the end of last year Chris started to come on finishing 6th in the World Championships and then following that up with a 5th place finish in the Lake Placid World Cup to end the season.

Chris continued to build momentum this season. Three weeks ago Chris finished 4th in a Wold Cup, his best finish ever. One week ago Chris finished second in the World Cup at Whistler. That was his first podium. He was sliding fast and with confidence coming into Park City.

After Chris’ first run he was tied for 3rd (Think about how crazy that is for a minute. Tied to 1/1000th of a second) with the reigning World Champion. Chris was third from last on the second run (remember reverse order of finish) and he threw down a blazing fast run standing on in the lead after his run. He was guaranteed at least a 3rd place finish. The second place slider went and could not beat Chris’ time. Finally the first place slider went down. His run was fast enough to capture first place. Chris finished second.

chris finish

That’s Chris on the left after the race concluded.

Chris was ecstatic. I’ve gotten to know Chris’ parents a little bit this past year, they were ecstatic too. Chris had already made the Olympic team and so his goals were kind of different. Continue to improve and slide fast. Check and Check….

Here is the Men’s podium

park city mens podium

I want to mention the guy who finished in first place, Armin Zöggeler, from Italy. If any non US slider win’s an event, he is my pick. Armin is almost 40 years old. This winter he will compete in his 6th Olympic games. He is a fantastic slider. Great form, smooth on the sled, and still blazing fast. I feel a connection with him, not because he is an Olympian, but because he is almost as old as I am. My 40 (something) year old body know’s what it’s like to be that old. My hack luging career allows me to have some suggestion of what it would be like to slide competitively at that age. My hat goes off to him.

Picture of the Day

chris podium-1

“Feeling Good”

2013 Luge World Cup Day 2: Dreams

Imagine for a minute if something you have worked for your entire life, something that you totally dedicated yourself to, came down to 1/100 th of a second. What would that be like? For some today it did.

Let me tell you about highs and lows and two very remarkable US athletes.

Julia Cluckey raced in the 2010 Olympics in Whistler. Her experience there was preceded by a blown out knee and some really difficult personal tragedy. Despite that she was in good shape to do well there, until the death at the Whistler track forced some changes to the event which worked against her strengths. But that’s not the story here. Julia came back from the Olympics, had some major surgery, and fought back to become one of the strongest women on the US team. She worked her tail off to get into position to return to the Olympics this year.

Kate Hansen has been a good women’s slider who’s results did not live up to her potential. She worked to get better. Over the past 9 months her times and finishes have steadily improved until she has been not only one of the best women on the team, but knocking on the door of the best women in the world.

Today’s races were more than just World Cup races to these two. Today’s races were for spots on the Olympic team.

After the first run, Kate was in second place. Her best showing ever in a World Cup. She was poised for her first podium. Julia was in 7th place with a good solid first run.

Let me tell you what happened to Kate first. The second run of a luge race is held in reverse order of ranking. So Kate was the second to last slider to go. She knew exactly what she needed to do to get what she was looking for, her first World Cup podium finish. I watched her run from the finish (where I was officiating). There was a great crowd cheering on the Americans and you could hear them yelling as Kate went down the track. Over the first half of the track she was in the lead. But one or two little bobbles in the second half of the track cost her her lead. Eventually she ended up in 4th place. Just off the podium. When Kate came up the outramp her arms were in the air. She was totally pumped. She earned her best finish ever and a ticket to the Olympics.

Julia? Julia finished in 6th place. She moved up a couple of spots and had her best showing of the year. But here is the thing. She needed to finish in 5th place to earn a spot on the Oympic team. She missed 5th place by 0.01 seconds. One one hundredth of a second (1/100 second!). What an amazingly small amount of time. A blink of an eye. It’s one little bobble on the track. It’s less than the time lost from one little extra steer on the sled. And yet, it was a huge amount of time. It was the difference between getting to realize her dream, the culmination of the last four years of dedication, and well, not. I don’t know Julia well. She has coached some of the club sessions, and I have talked with her a little bit. But I know how hard she has worked these past 4 years. I can only imaging how much today hurts.

That was today. A day when in less than a blink of an eye was the difference between dreams realized and dreams lost.

When you watch the luge in the Olympics this year think about these remarkable people.

Picture of the Day



2013 Luge World Cup: Day 1

Greeting for Park City Utah!

It’s been a whirlwind week on my end. It started with giving an exam to 250+ undergraduate students. Wednesday I rocked out grading those exams in a marathon day (grading is easily in the top 3 “worst things I do” in my job). Thursday I got up at 4 am to drive to the airport. Back home we had a strong front come through which turned on the “snow machine” by lake Ontario (along the route to the airport). Luckily on Thursday morning the snow turned off and the trip was uneventful.

I got to Park City at 2:30 local time, checked into the hotel, then headed to the track.


The track is in a beautiful spot. Actually all of Park City is in a beautiful spot. It’s a strangely wild place with a human foot print. There were moose on the hills next to the track. At one point there was also mule deer hanging with the moose. Well, until the mountain lion chased them away (not kidding we watched it).

Thursday was Nations Cup day. My plan was to check and see if they needed any help running the event (I am an international luge official), they did and so I was pressed into service.

Luge world cup races are really cool events and because this is an Olympic year EVERY nation with sliders was here. There were sliders from the US, Canada, Germany, Austria, Italy (all the big players) plus teams from places like Japan, Kazackstan, Ukraine, Korea, and TONGA! How cool is that.

Sliders who are ranked in the top 15 are automatically qualified for the World Cup race. All the rest have to race their way in. The “Nations Cup” is the qualification race. It generally has the younger, less experienced sliders in it who are trying to break in to the big time competition.

The Americans in the Nations Cup showed their stuff. Taylor Morris and Aiden Kelly finished second and third respectively in the men’s race (out of 44 sliders). Emily Sweeney finished third in the women’s race (out of 35 sliders). And the team of Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk finished third (out of 16 teams). The American team has a full slate of sliders qualified for the World Cup races.

Today is the women’s and doubles races. Keep watch on Erin Hamlin (2009 World Champion) and Kate Hansen (rising star) on the women’s side. Both are sliding fast and have a chance to medal today.

Picture of the Day


“Night at the Track”

So much to do….

Well the blog has been quiet this week, and will remain so. Sorry. Finals week here in my real life. My day? 250 exams to grade. Fun. BUT I am heading to Utah tomorrow….. More to come……….

They WILL come….

A couple of weeks ago I talked about starting a high school mtb team in my town. Well today the journey continued. Today I held a student interest meeting at the school.

I have been working with a couple of teachers at the school to advertise and drum up some interest. When I got to the school today the teachers assured me that they had interested students.

So here is the tale of the tape. 15 kids interested. 8 of them GIRLS! In fact the girls were so excited about this that they looked around the room, noticed the lack of boys (many of the boys had other sports practices, so it was actually mostly girls at the meeting) and commented that maybe there would ONLY be a girls team. Ha!

This is perfect. I had been hoping for 5-10 kids for the team the initial year. Typically you will get about half of the interested kids to actually participate. Lets see 15 divided by 2, carry the one……Holy crap…..That’s 7.5 kids! That’s EXACTLY 5-10 kids.

Yeah, I am pumped.

OK, now…sign up the team, get the kids to sign up, parents meeting, wilderness first aid, concussion training, club at the school, get volunteers, get sponsors, find some bikes for kids who don’t have one……I got this under control.