Starts are very critical in a luge run. It is the one place that you can gain time on someone else who is sliding. The track has a minimum time in it. That time is based on the best line down the track and ice conditions. And there is nothing you can do to change that. The time you end up with is a result of minimizing errors. You cannot really go any faster than the track allows, but you can certainly go slower.
Starts are like a multiplication factor for speed. The faster you are at the start the faster you are proportionally all the way down.
When you were watching luge on the Olympics you saw the sliders start by pulling off and then paddling with their hands down the start ramp. Sliders wear metal spikes on the tips of their fingers so that they can get grip on the ice when the paddle. They look something like this:
We use hockey tape to tape them to the fingertips of the middle three fingers (not the thumb or pinkie).
As medieval torture devices they pose a certain inherent risk when sliding. You really do not want to rub your face or shake hands with anyone (that’s why sliders fist bump). On the sled well just remember that you have handles that are snug to your leg and there is a lot of bouncing and bumping going on during a luge run.
Anyway, I have avoided using spikes because they are really a 3rd order “help” when sliding. 1st order being actually knowing how to slide and 2nd order actually knowing how to start properly. But when used with a good start they add just that little bit extra you might need.
Since I have been working on my 1st order problem this winter (i.e. actually knowing how to slide) and to a lesser extent on the 2nd order problem of starting I have avoided the 3rd order complication of spikes. The past couple of weeks have shown that my sliding is rounding nicely into shape. Yeah there are still issues, but on the whole I am really happy with where I am. This weekend I decided to mix things up. Time to spike my gloves. Time to get ready for the race in 2 weeks. Time to shoot for a 45 second run.
Saturday night was perfect. The temp was around 30F with no wind. The track was excellent. Big thanks to Matt, a club slider who works at the track. He got the track crew to work the start ramp for us before our session. It was in fantastic shape.
I on the other hand was a little tense. New stuff when sliding gets me in a mood. And I felt it. (OK Meat calm down. Thanks Yeti….) I got onto the handles and prepared myself to start. Track clear, green light, off I go. Rock back into a compression. Waste and back to pull off (normal). Rock forward and paddle (new). Three paddles down the ramp. Look up. Sh!t I am really far down the ramp. Quick, settle. Sh!t what do I do with my hands????? Into the first corner. Get settled Meat. SHUT UP YETI. I was mentally behind then entire run and it showed. Really high in turn 12 (where I have been having trouble). Into the wall before 13. Crazy out of 13. Still behind mentally going into the chicane. Wall….wall… wall… GET IT TOGETHER. Cross the finish line. 48.479. Yikes. That’s definitely not a 45 second run. No damage.
Time to regroup. OK. 3 paddles too much. Let’s do 2. And let’s get settled BEFORE the end of the start ramp.
Second run. Onto the handles. Compression. Pull off. 2 paddles. Sh!t not going straight on the ramp. Get down on the sled. Straighten out. Not so far behind mentally. Still all over the track, but no walls. More relaxed. 47.961. Better but still. Yikes.
RELAX and SLIDE. OK Yeti we do it your way this time.
Third run. Onto the handles. Compression. 1 paddle. Controlled settle. Straight on the start ramp. Calm. 12 not great but OK. Onto the chicane. Follow the dotted line on the roof. Hey I am looking up with my head back. Didn’t even have to remind myself to do that. Nice transition onto 17. Finished. 46.389. Hey Doug, isn’t that a new personal best? What? Oh yeah. Cool.
Fourth run. Onto the handles. Compression 2 paddles. Controlled settle. Totally relaxed. 46.332. Another new PB. (Also my fastest start time ever: 8.864, still slow, but better, and my fastest speed ever: 87.24 kph or 54.21 mph).
Key lesson from Saturday night: 1st order is a relaxed, good form run. Leave the start at the start and don’t carry it down. In the end it was a good night.
It was not without damage though. Remember the sharp things tucked tight next to the legs while bouncing down the track? Can you say puncture wounds? Ouch. The cure for that? Gorilla tape strategically placed on the speed suit. Ready for Sunday morning!
Over all Sunday was just plain fun. The ice was slow. The track had frosted up over night and slowed down a bit, so my times were a little slower. Consistent and about the same amount slower as our club benchmark Jeff. You take what the track has to offer. My favorite coach Marketta was there Sunday morning. Remember Marketta? “I will fix you!” After my first run I talked with her on the radio. “I have nothing to say, you look great.” High praise.
One more practice session, then the club race.
PS. If any of you were watching the live feed of the sliding, I hope you enjoyed the view. I know at least one person was watching. The club “guru” was not sliding this weekend. Something lame like work got in the way. But we know he was watching because the time sheets were posted to the club web site before we were out of our gear. And I had texts (yes multiple) on my phone with coaching tips……….. Ah Jim. It must have been killing you to sit there and watch 😉