My usual M.O. when going into a race is to tell myself that it doesn’t matter how I finish. It only matters that I feel like I did my best. That’s because I rarely have had a chance to podium in a luge race I have been in.
This race was weird. This race I had expectations. And those expectations were to win. Not to “place” or “show” but to win. I believe that while I was talking smack I even said something about “dominating” my group. (You need to learn to keep your mouth shut…… Yes that is true Yeti…..) We always talk a little smack before a race. You just better back it up.
It sounds a little pompous to read that. But that’s where I was. In luge you kind of know what people are capable of. You know how well they are sliding. You know what kind of times they have been getting. You know how well you are sliding. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to show up on race day. But you have an idea.
I’ve been sliding fast AND consistent for the past month. That’s the recipe in a luge race. In practice you can go for it hard and if things go to heck, well you have another shot at it. A PB is a one off. A race? Well that takes two back to back runs. I looked at the list of people who were signed up to race. And there were a couple who could slide close to as fast as I have been, but they tended not to string two of those runs together.
Yeah this race was weird. You may be wondering: “What’s the difference? If you slide your best you will win. Just slide your best.” True, but with expectations there is the possibility of not meeting them. Weird.
A special huge Thank You goes out to our club member Matt. Matt works at the track and he was making sure the start ramp was smooth and fast when we got there. (Matt wasn’t racing well because of this.) Thanks Matt!
One of the things we all wish for on race day is fast ice. There is nothing better than having fast ice and sliding a personal best in a race. We didn’t have that. It was warm and slow. I was the first adult to slide. We heard the kids times which confirmed the slow ice, but the kids can be erratic.
My 1st run? S…l…o…w…. It felt slow. I had a clean run (meaning I didn’t find any walls) but I also wasn’t sharp and made some mistakes (on a slow track mistakes are bad bad bad). Things were a little off early on. I corrected going into the second curve. When I got into the chicane I just wasn’t as relaxed as I needed to be. I corrected when I didn’t need to. It’s OK to be close to the wall there, but when I am not totally relaxed I tend to not want to be as close to the wall as I could be. I got to the bottom in 48.882 seconds. That’s over 2 seconds slower than I have been sliding. Urg. But the track was slow for everyone and at the end of the 1st run I was in 3rd place. The fastest run of the heat? 48.508 from Jim. I was more than 3/10’s out of first place. I virtual year in the luge world.
I was dissapointed. Bronze? Erin got a bronze in the Olympics, but it was not what I wanted. More than that, the guy who was in 4th was right behind me (0.07 seconds back). I was in danger of not getting anything.
Time to refocus. All I had in my power was to slide a clean fast second run. Time to get back to the normal sliding mode of just relax.
I was the last slider in my group for the second run. I went into my quiet zone between runs. So into that, that two things happened. I looked up at one point and saw Jeff staring at me from across the room with a goofy look on his face. I smiled and went back into my zone. The other thing was I didn’t hear anyone’s second run time from my group. I didn’t want to know, it didn’t matter.
I got onto the handles for my second run and reminded my self to commit to good form and quiet sliding. The ice was really soft which made it drivable. Just let the sled run and it will be OK.
My second run was much cleaner and felt faster. No real serious mistakes. More relaxed on my sled. Head down more. Less correcting.
(Legs a little low, head a little high)
I crossed the finish line and looked up.
(BTW. That little roll in my belly in not my belly its my weight vest bunching up. 🙂 )
1:36.703 (1). What? When I got off my sled people were congratulating me. Apparently I had won. So what happened?
The ice had firmed up a little bit (the temps were dropping) and gotten faster. Don, who was in second, slid a rough second run (remember it takes 2 runs to make a race). Jim who was in first had slid a faster second run than his first. It turns out my second run was 47.908 (almost a second faster than my first) and was the fast run of the night for my group. When it was all added up I was 0.07 seconds faster than Jim for our 2 run total. First place. That’s a race. Here I need to congratulate Jim. Jim slid a great race. He is one of the people who has struggled this winter with stringing two consistent runs together. He did that in the race (the place you want to do it!).
While I was trying to sort out what had happened I heard my name called out. One of my friends Ken (unbeknownst to me) came up to Lake Placid for the day with his son, his girl friend and her daughter. They had asked Coreen when I was sliding and came up to watch the race. I had a fan zone!
We had time for a 3rd run and had planned for a team race. With 11 kids and 11 adults we paired a kid with an adult to make a team. In order for everyone, regardless of how “fast” they were, to be competitive we came up with an innovative team race. Take your best time from the race as your base line. Slide your third run and take the difference from your 3rd run from the base line. So if your 3rd run was faster than your best race run you had a negative time (good, you improved!). If you were slower you had a positive differential (bad, you slowed!). Sum the differential for both people. Smallest time (meaning best team improvement) wins. Fun. It doesn’t matter how “good” you are, if you improve you have a chance to win.
Up for the 3rd run. Ken and his herd climbed up to the start to watch from up there. When I got to the start ramp I saw a head poke around the corner below. Scott, Ken’s son. “Is he up there?” (Ken) “Yes” (Scott). I smiled.
My strategy for the 3rd run? Go hard from the start. Let it ride.
I tried something in curve 12 (where I traditionally have difficulties) that people had recommended, steering up the curve just a little bit at the start of the curve. I got a little discombobulated but held it together. The rest of the run was not so bad. 48.322. A plus delta. Crap. BUT my teammate bailed the team out. Little Gavin (who has been sliding for about 3 months) slid himself a blazing 3rd run and was 0.7 seconds faster than his best race run. We finished in 3rd place (due in no part to my run 😉 ) in the team competition.
All that was left were the awards.
My first earned luge gold…….. (I do have one other gold medal to my credit, but that race I won because others seriously messed up. Which I guess is winning, but feels different.)
We have 2 weeks of sliding left in the season. I am sorry to see it end. But I have two weeks of fun sliding to see what I can do. The bar is just a little bit higher.
Picture of the Day
Special thanks to Amber who stood out in the cold and took pictures of all of us goofy sliders.