I am going to date myself here. When I was a kid I loved watching the A-Team. And one of my favorite parts was at then end when Hannibal would say “I love it when a plan comes together….”
So here was the plan from this weekend. Pack the family up early Saturday morning. Head to Whiteface Mountain to ski. Grab a nice dinner in Lake Placid. Drop the fam off at the hotel (with the cool pool) and head to the track to slide. Go back to the hotel. Get some sleep. Wake up Sunday morning, relish the fact that it was a 15 minute drive to the track (as opposed to the 2 hour trek from my house) and slide Sunday morning. That was the plan. It was a good plan. If only it had worked out………
Saturday morning we got up and headed to the mountain. The weather was perfect. After a couple of weeks of minus temps it was in the upper 20’s low 30’s with light winds. I was startled by how little snow there was at the mountain. Just man made stuff. Bailey ditched us quickly (that’s what teens do). I skied with Coreen and Noah. And we had a great time. The trails had good cover. Lines were not too bad. It was a fun day.
Well except I could feel a cold coming on. Sigh…..
We got to the hotel. Checked in and headed out to dinner.
I was feeling really run down. OK. I decided to go to the track, take a run or two and see how I felt. My phone rang when we were out. Sliding cancelled. The track was all chewed up from the public bobsled runs. See the track makes its money by putting the public on bobsled and running them down. Lots of money. (Authors note: My wife has done this. She says its the best 50 second block of her life. She highly recommends doing it if you have a chance.) Saturday they sent a lot of bobs down and the track was in bad shape. So they cancelled us. Great. I was tired and was hoping to be feeling better Sunday morning.
Sunday morning comes along and I am not feeling great, but I am feeling good enough to give it a go. We have had a influx of new kids and this weekend we had a couple of new adults as well. The energy was up. We loaded up and went to our respective starts. Two of the good club members were going to the women’s start (one above where I slide). The bulk of us went to the junior start. And the new people went to the tourist start.
My first run was fantastic. I pretty much nailed the section of the track where I was having troubles and had my best run of the year. (The track was slow by about 0.5 seconds, but my time was still pretty good. It would have been a Personal Best on a good track.) Then the second run came.
The first slider from women’s start went. I was getting into the zone for my run and I didn’t listen to the track announcer call his run. Then the second slider went. Again I didn’t hear his run until the end when the announcer called out “81 in turn 19”. 81 is track speak for a crash. Usually this is followed by a short delay as the slider is helped from the track. This time there was a long delay. Then the announcer told us to go back into the warming houses (where we stay warm while we wait to go onto the track). Then time continued to tick.
The other adults and I looked at each other. We knew this one was not good. After what felt like a really long time (it was really about 15 minutes) I went outside to see if I could see anything down the track. I heard sirens. I knew it was bad then. And I knew we were done for the day.
The trucks were sent up to us to bring us down.
My friend had crashed and lost consciousness. They had immobilized him and were transporting him to the hospital. He was awake and moving by the time he was on the ambulance.
Still in ADK Luge Club president mode I and the club ex-president call the parents and kids together to do a debrief. We check in with them, talked about some reality. We reminded them this is sliding on a sled, but its fast and needs to be respected. It calls for a seriousness and purposefulness. We made sure they were all OK and broke up as a group. Then we packed up to head to the hospital to see our friend.
This is the first time I have ever been at the track when someone was taken away in an ambulance. Usually our injuries are bruises (most often pride bruised mixed in) and scrapes. Sometimes we hit our heads and get a concussion. Not really all that often but it does happen. That’s why we wear kevlar helmets. This was the first time for me to be at the track when someone I consider a friend did not walk away from a day of sliding.
I called Coreen on my way back to the hotel. That’s when I had my 5 minutes of patheticness. The other adult and I had to be adults when everyone was there. Make sure they were OK. I needed a couple of minutes to let things out. When I got back to the hotel we packed up and grabbed some food. I wanted to go to the hospital to see how my friend was doing. I knew he was awake and moving, but I wanted to check in on him before heading home.
I managed to get into his room in the ER. The receptionist had broken down by that point because of all the people who came and were concerned, so she let me in just to say hi quickly. My friend was fine. They had checked his head and neck and there was nothing broken there. He looked rough (something about smashing your face into a ice track at high speeds) but he was talking and knew what was going on. He is going to be very very sore but he will be fine. He even joke with me…. “Doug you are not really thinking about moving up to women’s are you?” (I had told him what the coach said a couple of weeks ago before we started sliding.) I just laughed. It felt good.
Some people would probably say what we do is a stupid risk. Heck I even say that about some of the “extreme” things other people do. But what you miss when you say that is all of the skill and training that goes into getting good at something. All the stuff it takes to get to the point where it looks stupid to the rest of us. It’s not like we just go to the top of the track, jump on a sled and slide down. We know what we are doing. We are purposeful. We match challenge to skill level. It’s just sometimes things go badly. But things could go badly in a lot of things we do just in our everyday lives. We could sit cocooned in our houses and never go out. But what would be the point?
So next weekend we have the Empire State Games. I will load my sled back into the car and head to the track. I will get on it. I will probably think about my friend. I will push that out of my mind. I will focus on the track ahead of me. I will remind myself that I am getting pretty good at this. Then I will pull off.
(Authors note: By the time I got home my friend had posted a selfie on Facebook. When he gets past the concussion he is going to regret that 😉 )