Monday Morning Slider: 2015 US Masters National Championship Part 1 (Whack-A-Mole)

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.

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THAT is back and low on the sled.

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THAT is not over-reacting after hitting a wall.

But then there was stuff like this……

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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.)

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(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

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“Focus”

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“Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!”

An Open Letter to Elden Nelson

Dear Fatty,

Because you are the team manager of the bike team I ride for I feel I must bring something to your attention.

Last summer you ran a “contest” giving away a chance to race at the 8 Hours of Boggs. Now seeing as how I have been named the TEAM LEADER of your team, I fully expected to win said “contest”. I even donated to the cause (even though THAT cost me more than you are paying me to be the TEAM LEADER) and then waited patiently for the “you win” email.

Now imaging my surprise when I got an email from a good friend of mine name “Jeff” saying he was going to Boggs because he won the contest. I ask you to imagine that.

I don’t mean to go all “Lemond” on your “Hinault”, but seriously? I have to wonder what this means about my status on the team. Boggs is after all a 3 man team and I am after all the TEAM LEADER. I remind you of the contract you signed.

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I looked at your team for Boggs.

1. “Jeff”: I really cannot say anything bad about “Jeff”. He’s a stand-up guy and a strong rider. But did you know he races CX? (Shudder. Do want a road bike or a mtb? Pick one!) 

2. Levi: I know what you were doing here. Trying to placing a ringer on the team. Someone who could pick up the slack of the weakest rider on the team and ensure victory. However, I want to remind you that Boggs is a MTB race and well the last time I saw Levi on a MTB, well it wasn’t pretty.

Levi-donought

I appreciate the simplicity of a fully rigid single speed, but please let Levi know if he needs to borrow a more suitable MTB, I am sure we can get one for him with bigger tires. (He does know they first moved to 26″ tires like a century ago and more recently to 29″ tires and even more recently to 27.5″ tires right?)

3. You: I’ll give you the fact that you are pretty fast,  but still I question the choice of putting you on your team since you are not even the fastest person in your house.

And lets talk about this “team” you have put together. How are those “team” dynamics working out for you? I mean remember this?

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Lets step back from that picture for a second and take a wider view.

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Yeah, Levi gleefully putting you in a headlock and pounding on you. Looks like you all get along. I feel sorry for “Jeff”.

So I did the only thing that I could given this situation. I looked at the rest of Team Fatty and formed my own coalition within the team to assert my dominance. So here is my Team for Boggs.

1. Me: I AM the fastest biker in my house. Hands down. That makes me a good choice for the team. I also want to point out that I live up north. WAY up north (almost Canada WAY up north). We grow hardy people up here.

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People who love nothing more than to come home after a long ride with an ice encrusted bike.

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2. Dave Thompson: You know Dave right? He is a World Bicycle Relief Ambassador this year. He bleeds this sport and KNOWS the “Power of Bicycles”.

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3. Our special mystery rider: We are keeping our mystery rider’s name a secret. But he has been training, hard, for Boggs.

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Eye of the Tiger.

I like our Team. We are handsome, modest and strong. But one might question why I am so confident about our team. You might be asking how do I KNOW we are faster than your team. You might want data. Well I have it for you and it is summed up in one word: Leadville.

Let’s compare our records at Leadville. Neither “Jeff” nor our mystery rider have ridden at Leadville and so they remain an uncertainty at this point. But I am absolutely sure they would not factor into this determination of which team is faster, so lets move on.

Dave completed Leadville in 9:20 last summer. I did it in 10:30 the summer before. That makes our total time at Leadville 19:30.

Levi was a record holder at the race (though I am still not sure how he even completed it on that bike) and his time was 6:16. That’s “good”, I will grant you. Really you are the problem for your team. Your Leadville time is something on the order of 161:30. I’m not really sure because the number was so big my calculator melted when I tried to figure it out. (BTW, have they taken your buckle back yet? You are well past the “12 hour” mark.)

Now lets see……

My Team: 19:30

Your team: 166:46

Yeah, THAT’S why I am confident.

So here you go. Team World Bicycle Relief will be at Boggs on May 2. Perhaps you want to make this race more interesting?

Sincerely,

Doug (Designated GC Rider Team Fatty)

 

Monday Morning Slider: Tuning up?

The luge season can sometimes be a strange thing calendar wise. We start in the fall with leaves on the trees during biking weather. We end in the spring with snow on the ground. Like I say it feels strange sometimes.

Last weekend was the final weekend for the ADK Luge Club 2014-15 season. We still have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. It doesn’t feel like time to put the sled away. On the last weekend of the season we traditionally have the club race and annual meeting. I was re-elected President (yeah, I am President, but I prefer to be addressed as “Your Grace” and you may kiss my spikes when you see me). With that out of the way it was time for the club race.

The BESTEST time of the luge season is in two weeks: The US National Masters Championships. The club race was my last tune up before THE event of the year.

My sled was just (like I picked it up a couple of hours before the race) tuned up by a luge god and my Jedi Master. He promised a gain of 0.5 seconds from what he did, so my hopes were high.

It was warm, and humid, which if you have been following this blog, means frosty slowness on the track. Not record breaking kind of ice. When we got to the track we saw the start ramp. Urgh. There were chunks of ice on the track. It looked like someone took ice cubes and sprinkled them on the track. Bobsleds. Grrr!. It was in such bad shape that I (half) joked about ruining the new edges my jedi master put on my steels and having to give it right back to him to fix after the race. One of the kids asked what the start ramp meant. I swallowed my disappointment and said “Nothing, we are all racing on the same track.”

Its been a long couple of weeks and I hadn’t realized how REALLY distracted I was until I got on my sled and pulled off. When I experienced my brain being just about half a second behind my sled, then, THEN I realized. It’s exciting to be mentally behind your sled on the track. It was a terrible run that I fought the entire way down. I somehow managed to be 3rd out of 6 after the first run. I should have been much much closer to my friend who was 2nd.

I decided to get my head in the game and let go on the second run. It was much much better. Not where I need it to be in 2 weeks, but closer. My time improved by a second. Not enough to catch my friend in 2nd so I ended up in 3rd.

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Time to get ready to take on the Olympians. (My steels survived just fine.)

Picture of the Day

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“ADK Winter”

(I went snowshoeing between the club meeting and the club race. I love our mountains!)

Four Seasons

Up in the North Country we have Four Seasons: Summer (no jokes please, especially my CA “friends”), Fall, Winter, and…. Mud.

Now the Mud Season has two different names, some call it the Mud Season, some call it the Brown Season. Both are the same. No one calls it “Spring”.

This week winter broke, which means we are entering Mud Season. Temps on Monday were near 40F, Tuesday mid 40’s. Our coldest day on the 10 day forecast is for a high of 32. Even that feels like shorts weather.

Since I am away from home in the middle of the week I decided to ride on Monday and take advantage of the warm temps and sunny (what IS that giant glowing thing up there?) skies. This year I am ready for the weather to warm up and the snow to melt. I could use a little change.

So I grabbed the bike and headed out. My house is on a dirt road. Only right now its not dirt. The frost line is about 7 ft deep. In Mud Season you get a layer of thick wheel sucking mud on top of the permafrost. Monday it was about 2″ deep. 2″ of wheel sucking, energy draining mud. Its the kind of mud you read about or hear about destroying people’s chances in big cross country races like Tour Divide.

I stopped looking at my speed about 3 minutes into the ride. I knew it was going to be more single track like than gravel grinder like. My normal 2 laps, which I can do in 50 minutes to 1:15.

But, well yeah, the weather broke!

I declare Winter over and Mud Season on.

Now if the 2 feet of snow we have would melt, we could get some single track dried out. Should be ready in July or so.

Picture of the Day

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“Tough Mudders”

Monday Morning Slider: It total does and does not matter (all at the same time)

I didn’t get to write last week. It was an incredibly difficult week with more bad family health news. I spent the week processing and going about trying to find some normalcy. Writing took a back seat. This sabbatical year has been difficult from that perspective. While its not my sabbaticals “fault” it certainly isn’t making this year be what it was supposed to be.

I went sliding on Sunday. It was strange to be at the start line. What a silly little way to spend my time. Riding a sled down a hill. Given the recent news and all that happened this last fall with my family, sliding is unimportant. It doesn’t change any of that reality. It really doesn’t matter.

And yet it really does. It’s a diversion. It gives me a chance to just be for a little while. To put things aside. It’s a chance to spend time with friends and laugh and tease. And so it really does matter, a lot.

I slid well. Four solid runs. A couple where I really felt good on my sled. My times were not stellar, but be warned of luge friends, my runs were better than my times showed. And my sled is with the best sled guy in the country being tuned up. The 5th run? Well I should have listened to the little voice that said you have had enough. Eh, that’s neither here nor there. I left the track smiling, and that, as always, is my metric for a good day.

 Picture of the Day

Well today’s picture is really a story. It is being told by a very talented story teller, and well sometimes that makes for the best picture. Being close to Canada we are exposed to some things (most of them good). There is a CBC radio show called the Vinyl Cafe. On that show Stuart McClain tells stories. Some are real, and some of fiction. The fictional ones are about a family in Canada. The best part of those stories is how Stuart can weave essential truths into the narrative. This story is in one of the books he has written and I first read it there. Yesterday I heard Stuart tell it for the first time. This story is about people and relationships and living. It is one of my favorite stories, and is about 20 minutes long. You may need kleenex. I did when I first read it and then again when I heard it.