Author’s Note: “Adult” lugers have two big events each year. Races where we have officials making sure that we are not cheating. Races where friends and family come to watch us. Races where the smack talk really comes out. Empire State Games and USA Masters Nationals. Masters is the clear “A” race, but ESG is a lot of fun as well.
We have had all kinds of ice this winter since January. Soft, slow extra frosty ice. Meh, OK ice that was normal fast. Ice with snow on it. The one kind of ice we have not had yet this winter is brutal hard ice. Ice that comes when you do not get above 0F for a bit. The sub zero temps that accompany that kind of ice give you the double whammy of ice that is hard to drive on and white numb toes and fingers. It’s “lovely”.
The drive to the Empire State Games started two weekends ago. I was in Lake Placid for a Saturday night and Sunday morning slide. It was below zero and the ice was hard.
Hard ice is like riding a mountain bike on roots and rocks in the rain. It possible to do it. You just have to have really good technique and you have to pick your lines right. Oh, and you have to expect that odds are good that you are going to eat some dirt. Hard ice is like that. You can do it. You just have to have really good technique and you have to pick your lines right. Oh, and you have to expect that odds are good that you are going to find some wall. You gotta put your “big boy” spandex on on ice like that.
Saturday night was a comedy of errors. (In a non-family setting I would call it a sh!t fest.) They started on the start ramp. Pulling off and going right into the wall of the start ramp. The errors occurred at every possible location on the track. And never in the same place twice. One run my face shield wasn’t on right and I had a jet of cold air hitting my face the entire run. On the last run of the night my sled went into a big fast corner on what felt like a pretty good line. I went to set my line so that I would follow the profile of the curve when my sled grabbed and climbed up the profile. I started to worry that I would actually get to the top of the curve when the back end started to skid out (backwards down a curve in luge is never a good idea, in this part of the track it is really dangerous). I executed the fail move (super hard steel to bring the front of the sled back into line). It was a long night.
Sunday morning was more of the same. I never really put a clean run together. It was a wack-a-mole session. Fix one spot and another would pop up and become a problem. I was getting frustrated and angry. Frustrated and angry is the polar opposite of lose and relaxed in luge. 4 runs, nothing that I would call clean. There was time for a 5th run. The little voice started.
“Don’t do it. Nothing good can come from it. You are frustrated.” (The helpful voice you should listen too.)
“You gotta learn to put bad runs behind you. Put the big boy spandex on and go on up for one more.” (The Yetti voice which you should sometimes listen too and sometimes NOT listen too.)
Yetti won and I went back up for a 5th run. On that 5th run I finished taking the paint off the left side of my sled. And I turned parts of my left arm purple.