When is 0.7 seconds an eternity?

When this blog started one of my very first posts, actually it was the second, was about a fun little project we had started at work. The project was to help the US Luge Association develop newer faster sleds. That project started out because of my son who got into the sport. He then got me into the sport. Which then lead to the fun project at work. I have written about the luge athletes I know and who are incredibly dedicated. Authors note: This is still comical to me since I started this blog with the intent to talk about my participation in a 100 mile mtb bike race and actually started out talking about luge.

My friends and family often ask what is happening with the luge project. Well here take a gander at this first. Friday and Saturday the best luge athletes in the world came to Lake Placid for a World Cup race. It was a spectacular weekend.

Tucker West went to the Olympics last year. At 18 he was the youngest slider the US had ever entered into the Olympics. Let’s just say that was a “learning experience”. On Friday Tucker took first place in the World Cup luge race. He finished over 0.7 seconds ahead of the second place slider. Let me put that gap in perspective.

Luge is timed to the 1/1000th (that’s 0.001) of a second. Races are not typically that close (though I have been involved in races where the winners were tied on total time) but they can be pretty darn close. A 0.7 s margin is a good old fashioned whipping. It’s about as dominating a win as you can get in luge. Here a little more perspective. Tuckers margin to the 2nd place slider was bigger than the margin between 2nd place and 10th place (meaning the 10th place slider was closer to 2nd place than 2nd place was to first place). Hey World. Can. Whip Ass. Open. Enjoy.

Chris Mazdzer (who also went to the Olympics last year) finished 4th. I know he is dissapointed with that finish. He fought the track on both of his runs. But he was strong and held himself together for a very respectable finish. Chris was 0.02s out of 3rd place. That’s a pretty small margin. Small enough that Chris was thinking about the places where he “messed up” his runs and lost just little little chunks of time.

Aiden Kelly (the final American male slider in the Olympics last winter) finished with a personal best World Cup finish of 7th place.

So what’s the tie in to the lead in to this post? This fall is the first time that the USLA athletes were sliding on equipment that my team and I at Clarkson helped to develop. All three of those men were on equipment that my team at Clarkson had a hand in designing. Pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

Right now you are probably thinking “Wow you guys must have really done an awesome job!”

First, thanks. I cannot disagree with that. I am incredibly proud of the stuff we designed. My team spent a lot of time figuring out HOW to design what we designed. That was incredibly difficult, but has lead us to be able to make designing things easy from here on out. My team here has done a fantastic job.

And now you are probably wondering “How much of a difference did that super incredible equipment make?”

Truthfully that’s really hard to say and to me is in some ways not real important. I have always taken the approach that they athletes are the focus of our work. They are firstly responsible for their times and their abilities. If I was sliding on one of those sleds I would probably be a little faster. But well lets face it, THAT equipment would be so much better than THIS slider that it wouldn’t make all that much difference. I would be faster, but I doubt I would all of a sudden be the leader of the A division in my luge club. Certainly Tucker Chris and Aiden would have nothing to fear from me.

Our task has always been to give the athletes the best possible equipment we can so that we can enable them to compete at the top of the sport. They didn’t have that equipment before, but because of a real team effort that includes people at USLA, other industrial sponsors and Clarkson they are starting to. Hopefully the results will continue to show that.

Picture of the Day

golden sunrise

“Golden Sunrise”

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2 thoughts on “When is 0.7 seconds an eternity?

  1. Great post, Doug! I hadn’t really been all that aware of your work on the design side. And I love the observation about needing to learn HOW to design. Can you do a follow-up on that one aspect of the project?

    There must be parameters within which you can design: weight between X and Y, length/width/height bounded by certain dimensions, materials, etc. Even so, that makes for a set of variables that are still practically infinite, perhaps including blade slant, blade sharpness, attachment to the “bed,” etc.

  2. Jeff,

    On one hand a luge sled is deceptively simple in concept. Two runners held together with a cockpit that the athletes lay in. On the other hand its is incredible complex. We have been working on the pod shells, the cockpit.

    The shells serve two functions. They are the interface between the athlete and the sled and they form an aerodynamic envelope. The difficult part on the shells from an engineering standpoint is they are incredibly hard to draw and dimension. There are no edges or corners to work off off. The time was spent figuring out how to do that design in a smart way. How we did that, well….. 🙂

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