Author’s Note #1: All the pictures shown in here are courtesy of Laura, wife of one the club guru. She did a fantastic job getting both the high and low points of the weekend. Thanks Laura!
Author’s Note #2: Master’s is hands down the best weekend of the winter for me as a slider. I get to slide a lot, with my friends in the club, with friends from the other luge clubs, and with former international sliders and Olympians. It’s a lesson in the history of the sport in the US and a chance to learn from the best. I don’t know many other sports or opportunities that you have to compete with people who were tops in their sport.
You can tell when someone is really sliding well on a luge. Someone sliding well throws down run after run with times that are really close. That marks consistency and consistency means speed. (You can be consistently bad, but its really really hard to have consistent bad runs with the same time.) When you find consistency sliding is fun.
But, well sometimes you loose that consistency. And when your sliding is erratic luge is a game of Whack-A-Mole. You fix something here, and something pops up somewhere else. And really since I finished Empire State Games, my sliding has been, well, erratic.
Masters this year had three training sessions before the race. Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday evening. Three chances to get all the moles hack in their holes and find some consistency on the track.
I notice two common things about me when I am sliding poorly. 1. I get in my head. I start to think too much about what I should be “doing” at a particular spot on the track. In some sense its good to know what to do where, but when that turns into sliding a script in my head, I stop feeling the track and start driving my “should be” run. 2. I anticipate the bad things that are going to happen. That’s a problem when the bad thing doesn’t happen because then you make a new bad thing happen.
Friday night was a cluster. I was all over the track. From the start ramp to the finish. Driving a script and not feeling what was going on. My times were slow and all over the place. And on my 4th run I crashed. It was one of the “good crashes” that came after the finish eye. The club guru looked at the timing sheet and commented that it was my best run of the night. Yes, but. I had a bad line in the last curve and started to skid out. To which I executed the fail. This usually slows the sled down a lot but didn’t in this case. I ended up on the high line through the curve, which while fast, tosses you into the wall right at the timing eye (which it did) and sometimes results in you being ejected off your sled (which I was) leading to physical and mental bruising (which I got). Ugh.
Saturday morning it was more of the same. Walls, corrections, OK, bad, kinda bad. No back to back good runs. I insulted with session coach with my poor starting and hesitant weak paddles to the point where he said “Don’t paddle, they aren’t doing anything except chancing driving you into the wall. Just pull off and settle onto the sled.”
It wasn’t all bad. I had flashes where I looked like I knew what I was doing.
THAT is back and low on the sled.
THAT is not over-reacting after hitting a wall.
But then there was stuff like this……
THAT is “I AM NOT COMFORTABLE (and not sure if this is going to be good)!”
Though, it was good to keep in mind that it could have been worse. (It’s helpful to remember it could always be worse, even for my friend in this picture. Who BTW was not hurt and made this into his FB picture.)
(The direction of motion in that picture is left to right. Notice that he has a hold of his sled. Rule #1 never let go of your sled. He is in the low spot on the track and if he had let go of the sled it would have come back at a high rate of speed.)
Saturday afternoon I snuck out to do a little biking. I got a chance to try out a fat bike and ride in the snow which helped to get my head cleared out a little bit. (The fat bike was a lot of fun and while I ended up with a mechanical issue on the bike I was using, it cemented my plans to get one ASAP.)
Before the last practice of the night I was talking with the club guru and mentioned something about being in my head. “No, really?” was his reply. Yeah they know me.
I made two command decisions. 1. I was going to stop paddling at the start. Just pull off and calmly settle onto the sled. As the fastest person in the club says “Not all straight starts are fast, but all fast starts are straight.” I have a better time when I can start a run in a calm controlled manner. 2. I was going to stop thinking about my run while I was doing it. I was going to focus in my head on being relaxed and quiet on my sled. I was going to feel the track more and deal with what was actually happening rather than what the script said.
My first run was my cleanest and fastest run in a month. And my second was even better. I probably should have quit at that point. I was tired and sore from so much sliding (we rarely slide two sessions in 1 day) but I went for a third. It wasn’t clean, but I managed it better than any of my other bad runs and in the end my time was actually pretty close to what I slid on my first run. I was ready to race.
Pictures of the Day