Uh oh (Part 2)

There is something I didn’t share about my day of luge last weekend. It really wasn’t much. Just a couple of sentences. About 30 second of my 14 hour luge day. And yet…….

We were putting our equipment away and Jim (the club guru) and I were chatting about the upcoming weekend. It’s our last session of the year. We are opening it up to everyone who wants to slide (usually we limit the numbers so that we can get at least 4 runs in) and so its going to be a last night to spend time with our winter friends.

Jim: “I am going to take some people up to women’s start next weekend. It’s time.”

Doug: “OK. Who?”

Jim: “You are on that list.”

Doug:

Jim: “You should see the look on your face its priceless.”

And so began what has been a truly interesting week between luge sessions.

OK so here is the deal. The tourist start, where people first slide is about 35 mph. The junior start, where I slide, about 55 mph. Women’s start, where Olympic Bronze medalist Erin Hamlin slides, about 70 mph. The game changes at each one and so do the stakes.

Question 1. Do you actually want to luge from the women’s start?

I had been harboring this secret plan. Next year focus on the Masters race and getting fast for that. THEN once that was finished see about moving up to the women’s start. Jim has definitely upset that little plan.

Question 2. Do you want to do it this week?

That’s more difficult to answer. I have these two voices in my brain. One says yes, the other says no.

The yes one says: “You have had a great season and are in good control of your sled. You sliding has really come around. Its going to be warm and rainy (meaning the ice will be slow). It’s a good time.”

The no one says: “You still have a tendency to tense up and when you do your form gets bad. That’s not a good combination when you are going 70 mph. You need to fix that first.” This no voice is coming about largely because I was sloppy last week, and it bothered me. And probably because I have this strong sense of self preservation.

I am not sure if the “no” voice is smart or chicken.

It’s going to be an interesting day.

Authors Note: I suspect Jim sprang that little gem on me last week to get the F.U. reaction out of the way……..which I guess it did.

Uh oh……..

I woke up Sunday morning and found this in my email:

“Hello Doug,
Your Workouts for Sunday, March 23
#1: 2 min intervals
Type: Bike
Planned Duration: 1:30
Description: Warm up 20 minutes. During this warm up include 4 x 60 second accelerations to expected pace for your 2 minute efforts.
Then perform 4-6 x 2 minutes at Zone 5. If using power go specifically by 110-115% FTP. Use either a combination of HR and RPE(how you feel), or power, HR, and RPE. Very important you go by feel for these as your HR most likely will not reach it’s max in 2 minutes! If you don’t have power, try to pick a section of road or a short climb for these. Mark a point that you think you can hit every 2 minutes and equals a max effort for that time frame. Hit that point every time in 2 minutes and you are spot on!
If you have anything left after 6 of these, do one more maximal effort with whatever you have left. Today’s workout is a maximal day, so leave nothing left.
Take a full 4 minutes rest between these efforts. This is extremely important, so do your best to take the entire break.
After the intervals, spin easy zones 1-2 for the remainder of time.
Pre-Activity Comments: “

My first workout from Drew for the season. The email starts out nice enough, but when you look at it in detail its a nasty little thing. That’s OK bring it.

I am planning on doing a XC race in CT on April 13:  Hop Brook Dam. The timing is good from a family perspective as the kids have spring break. We can go to visit with our CT family and have an early Easter. It’s less appealing because of this:

winter_window

That’s the view out of my office window. Want to go snow shoeing?

While its officially spring, our cold winter is holding on hard. We still have over a foot of snow on the ground (with a little fresh stuff added to it last night). It’s supposed to get into the 40’s by the weekend and continue through next week. But it’s a definite possibility that the race on the 13th will be my first single track ride of the year. A race, on a new course, with rust. Eh, bring it.

 

Monday Morning Slider: G is for….

Some days things are just a little bit out of whack. When I slide on days like that I usually end up fighting the track instead of flowing. The track wins those days. (Well truthfully I never feel like I beat the track. My best days are when the track and I reach a detente.)

I was just a little off when we started sliding this weekend, for a lot of reasons. I was up very late Friday night being a dad, up very early Saturday morning to be a race official for a group of kids who were 10-16 in the luge Youth National Championships, and I was distracted Saturday night being the ADK luge club president. The first two meant that I was a little tired when I got to the track Saturday night.

The last one was because we had 8 first time sliders learning to luge. Usually we have 1 or 2 new people that we need to get oriented. 8 I believe is unprecedented for the club. Helmets for everyone. Sleds for everyone. A big group “this is how you slide, have FUN, don’t worry etc.” orientation. Answering questions. “What about, how do I, etc.” All the typical WTF am I getting myself into questions. I see one of my jobs as making the experience memorable (hopefully in a good way 😉 ) for all the new people. In the end I didn’t get to do my usual warm up, get into the zone stuff. It was just an odd night.

My first run was a mess.

LP track map

Here is the track map to reorient you. I pulled off from start 4 and got onto my sled. The Labyrinth (11-12-13) was a mess. I tagged a wall between 12 and 13. Pulled it somewhat back together. Fought through the chicane. Had a weird first corner in the heart (turn 17-18-19), too much of a steer in 19 and was slow. 48.258. Cannot blame that one on the ice conditions. They were not blazing fast, but not that slow either. Grr.

Second run. Worse than the first. Same issues plus a little skid in 19. 48.759. Sigh. (I am going to do this until I get it right…….)

Time to relax. Let it all go and just take what the track has. In the start house I quieted my mind and tried to get the tension out of my shoulders. Onto the sled. A little rough in the 12-13 transition but better. Smaller steers in the chicane. Better but not great in the heart. 47.388. Better.

4th run pretty much a carbon copy of the 3rd.

We didn’t have many people sliding and so we had a chance for a 5th run. Back to the top. Relax into the sled this time. Really relax into the sled this time. I made a pretty good transition from 12-13. Nice run going on. Much quieter in the chicane. Head back and stretched out. Better in the heart. 47.023. Best run of the night. The club guru (who took only two runs because he was recovering from a quick illness) came up to me and said I had great form in the chicane. That felt good, but still I went away just not quite satisfied.

“G”. G is for grind. That’s the best way to describe Saturday. It was a grind from the start. Some days flow is an illusive thing to achieve.

My metric for victory in a luge session is going away smiling. I did, but this week it was not because of my sliding. It was because of the 8 new people who slid with us.

They slide from a lower start on the track than we do. So you give them THE directions and kind of send them on their way. We did have a coach with them at the start so they are not on their own. But I have no contact with them during the session.

When we were all done we got back down to put our equipment away. “Who had fun?” 8 hands shot into the air filled with 8 great big smiles.

“We want to come back next week and need to get out of a party. It’s a bowling party, but this is WAY better.” Yeah luge is WAY better than bowling.

I left the track with a smile on my face.

Monday Morning Slider: 2014 Adirondack Luge Club Spring Race

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.

doug_springrace_18

(Legs a little low, head a little high)

I crossed the finish line and looked up.

doug_springrace_finish

(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.

doug_springrace_podium

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

2014 ADK Sping race team podim

“Yeah Team!”

Special thanks to Amber who stood out in the cold and took pictures of all of us goofy sliders.

My Mountian Bike Team

Author’s note. The big race report from this weekend is coming. We had a couple of fans at the race watching and taking pictures. I am waiting for some pictures to post with the story. Until then…..

I have, apparently, become famous enough to attract a world class troll into my life. Here let me back up a bit.

In the fall I told you all about how I was forming a mountain bike team in my area. We have been working on that over the winter. It has been a little slow because we are going through the school to make it an official club. There are a lot of “i’s” and “t’s” in that process. Last week I went to the school board to ask for approval. There were a couple of reporters there who did stories on the club.

I thought that was awesome. A little press would be a great thing. (Funny thing, the reporters wanted to talk luge even though they specifically asked to interview me about the mtb team. Oh well.) Little did I know I would get more attention from that little article than I had expected.

There is a well know anti-mountain biking guy out there. He is so anti mountain biking that he was willing to break the law to prove how bad and dangerous mountain biking is.

Guess who wrote to my school principal and superintendent over the weekend?

Yeah you bet! A personal letter from the #1 anti mountain biker out there. I have hit the big time for sure.

The principal emailed me with a copy of the letter. Here let me give you a sample:

“Please do the right thing, and veto this!

Introducing children to mountain biking is CRIMINAL. Mountain biking, besides being expensive and very environmentally destructive, is extremely dangerous. Recently a 12-year-old girl DIED during her very first mountain biking lesson! Serious accidents and even deaths are commonplace. Truth be told, mountain bikers want to introduce kids to mountain biking because (1) they want more people to help them lobby to open our precious natural areas to mountain biking and (2) children are too naive to understand and object to this activity.”

The principal sent me an email asking if this guy was a troll.

Yup.

I fluctuate between great amusement and anger when I hear stuff like that. I’m not even going to engage this in debate with a guy like that. Because you know what? With a guy like that it’s pointless. It won’t ever change him. But you cannot let stuff like that go unchecked or it will be the only voice that the public hears.

I will freely admit that there is a cost to people riding mountain bikes on trails. I will also admit that some in the mountain bike community do not respect trails and do not work to minimize their impact. It’s our job as mtb’ers to make sure this doesn’t happen and to police ourselves. I will also freely admit that people can get hurt mountain biking. I’ve done it (and will probably do it again this year.)

I completely disagree with the severity of the costs that this guy seems to want to attach.

I will not allow the fact that I am: 1. getting kids up off the couch and active; 2. getting kids to appreciate the outdoors; And 3. getting kids to be good stewards of our natural world, to be minimized.

We have a problem with kids being inactive and disconnected from the world around them. How is engaging them a bad thing?

I will not allow someone to ignore the fact that mountain bikers, like hunters, like hikers, etc. are people who care and spend time caring for the natural world. We are the people who fight to keep places undeveloped. We work to keep the world a place with wilderness in it. We are willing to spend money to protect the natural world. In exchange we do ask for a chance to experience it.

Hey what’s worse for the plants and animals? Putting some single track into a natural area or clear cutting that natural area to put up McMansions? I saw that over and over and over when I lived in Maryland. My wife was in the new grocery store down there and heard a man checking out talking about the fact that this was right about where his favorite hunting spot was, right before they built the store. When we create use opportunities for people, natural places become valuable as natural places AND we create a group of people who advocate for that value. Excluding a group from that just doesn’t make any sense.

So there you go.

Luckily my principal can smell crap when she sees it.

Picture of the Day

doug cu xc smile-1

“Nature’s Advocate”

 

Monday Moring Slider: Race Eve

Friday night. Race eve…

It’s not Monday. Shut up Yeti….

Friday night. Race eve.

Tomorrow night is the big spring ADK Luge Club spring race. In many ways its the culmination of my season. It’s been a breakout season for me. A total blast.

I feel like I am finally understanding this crazy sport. I am comfortable on my sled. My position is good. I can handle problems as they come, and I am leaving them behind me on the track.

Two good runs. That’s what I need tomorrow. Two good runs.

My dream? Well it would be win the “B” division and to slide a run that has “45” in it. That’s the line in the sand right now. If I slide a 45, then I am ready to move up to the “A” group for next year. Dear Santa….

It’s going to be a luge filled day tomorrow. I am officiating the Senior National Seeding Race in the morning. That’s the race USLA uses to determine who will be sliding on the senior, big boy, circuit next year. I like working those races. Then the ADK Luge Club annual meeting (better do an agenda before I go to sleep!). Then a little party for Erin Hamlin (bronze medalist in the 2014 Winter Olympics!). Then off to the track for the race. Then home.

Yup a jam packed day of luge.

I’m ready. My gear is in my car. My steels are polished.

Game on!

Picture of the Day

doug and jenny

“Friendly Competition”

Monday Morning Slider: In which we discover that I am not a ski racer

Sunday morning was our last practice session before the big luge club race. Last chance to get some things under control before the competition next weekend.

With the whole time change thing (you know “spring ahead”) the usual early morning drive was even earlier. But I was excited. My friend Christa we going to try luge for the first time. She was already in Lake Placid and I was going to grab her on my way through town to the track…..

“Wait a minute, you went to the track?”

Yes Yeti.

“How are you going to discover you are not a ski racer at the track.”

I guess you are just going to have to wait to see Yeti.

“Grrrrrrrr!”

🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah, newbie at the track. Christa was pumped but nervous. We gave her the 5 minute “this is how you luge” speech (yeah, it’s that EASY. All you need to know we can teach you in 5 minutes. Applying it is another matter!) and loaded up on the trucks to go up to the starts.

My runs were solid. Funny thing is 5 weeks ago these runs would have made me really excited. Now they were just solid. I continued to work on my starts (Had my fastest start time ever. Which is still not saying much. There is a lot of work to do there.) and I continued to work on getting the upper portion of the track down. That definitely improved, but it still isn’t right. The track wasn’t exceptionally fast and so my times were like I said solidly “solid”.

My last run (the one I had my best start time on) was fast. Pretty close to a PB time. Right until the last turn. The last turn is a big left hand turn and goes uphill to the finish. It’s the place on the track that you can hurt yourself for real from the start I was using. My transition to that curve wasn’t great but not horrible. But instead of my sled taking a line around the curve, well it climbed up the curve. This is BAD. Two things can happen. You can hit the top of the curve and bounce back down to the short wall (head first) or the back end of your sled will kick out and you will slide down towards the short wall (head first). Both are not great options. When these things start to happen its important to employ a “fail”. The fail looses you time in a big way, but you live to slide another run. And so hard steer, force the sled onto a line, ride it out. Cross the finish line. Still run in the 46 second range. But I lost a good one.

No worries. And my run was not the most exciting one of the weekend. Nope that goes to the club guru Saturday night who managed to slide with one steel on the track and the other on the wall in the chicane. Not a fast line, but a remarkable job of driving.

Christa? She had took three runs. The first one was the “holy crap what am I doing”. Run. A big blur with bouncing off the wall. The second was a lot better. The third she joined the ranks of lugers and crashed. Welcome to the club Christa. You got many “firsts” out of the way! It only gets more fun. Frustrating but fun! Well it also get you bruised. But its FUN! 🙂

Now Sunday was scheduled to be a really busy day. I was taking part in the “ADK Winter Challenge” a promotional event to highlight the great recreational activities we have in the North Country. (Really if you have never been up to the Northern Adirondacks you should come, it is AWESOME. That part of the event I could agree with.) It was a political event and I was asked to do this by the school (because of the luge work we are doing). I got slated to do the “Alpine Race”. We were bused to Whiteface and given lift tickets. (I won’t lie, its fun to be given the VIP treatment.) We had about two hours on the mountain (which is not enough to have serious fun there) and I skied with the provost from Clarkson who had never been there before. At 2 pm the “race” began. They set up a little slalom course with timing. I made it down once and we decided to try it again (you could do it as many times as you wanted). Big mistake.

I am a good skier. I can make it down pretty much anything on the mountain and have fun doing it. When I did my second run I hooked a ski tip and landed flat on my face. Oh well. Well except they had some guy with a professional video camera taping. Yeah! There you go recorded for all of history. Oh and shown on the “highlights” video at dinner in front of  300 of my new friends….. sigh….. I challenge you all who were at dinner to a luge race….. That’s all I am saying.