First slide of the season 2013/14
This email signifies the beginning of the Olympic season for bobsleigh.
I have just arrived in Calgary after a week or so in New York State.
I have found that at 42 your body takes just that little bit longer to adapt and that recovery is critical in all athletic performance. Just how those few drinks when you were 20 only took your few hrs to get over the next day now take you a few days or a week to recover from.
A few days in New York shopping before heading up State to Lake Placid allowed the body to settle into the time zone a little easier.
The original plan was to meet in lake placid so we could trial our newly renovated 4 man sled. If you remember from the end of last season the chassis broke half way down the track on our first run of the competition and we had to borrow the Brazilian sled to complete our second run. Well the sled is all welded back together and we were keen to try it out however it was unseasonably warm and the ice was very soft so the powers that be at lake placid would not let us use the 4 man sled as the weight would break the soft ice. We were left to trial our new second hand sled that many of you so generously helped us buy off the women’s team.
The morning of the first slide of the season is always full of nervous anticipation. The nerves start early and with lessons learnt from previous adventures of trying to hold down a big breaky pulling 5G into a corner, it was only a very light breakfast for me.
Warming up was slow and tedious as sitting for 30 plus hours had taken its toll on my legs and hamstrings. We were not out to break records today but still wanted to see what the off season training had done for the start time.
We were at the track with the American squad as a part of their preseason testing and ranking. The current Olympic gold medal team where there and it would be a great test to slide on the same track pre season to see where you really stand in the world rankings.
It was our turn. We were up! The butterflies were actually not as great as they had been in the past. I consciously thought that I had somehow almost got use to standing at the top of this icey tunnel of terror. However it is not that you are no longer scared or nervous but more to the point that you are use to doing it scared and nervous.
We set up on the block and crouch into position. We are now about to find out if all the training was worth it. The 6 or 7 days a week some times twice a day of training all comes down to this. You want to make it good. Your nervous, your terrified, you think a little bit of wee just came out! Your ready to go!
The usual call of "BACK" "SET" "UP"!!!
We were off!
I was late on the hit and Heath moved the sled before I did and I slipped and stumble head first into the sled. "$&@!!!!"
I recovered my footing too late to make a good start but in enough time to get 4 or 5 good strides in before loading.
It was at this point you realise it was my first time in the back of this particular sled. It was smaller than any previous sled I had been in. Trying to fold and contort my body into the confined space in a fraction of a second had left me with limbs wedged into positions that were less than ideal. I was not able to fold completely as my right arm was wedged and I could not brace my head on my knees leaving it to be tossed around like a pit bulls favourite toy under the enormous pressures of the lower corners. The ride was rough. The roughest I had ever experienced. It was simply brutal. Not because of heaths driving or from being bounced off walls but because the ice was rough. On the way down I had been forced to clench my teeth as that was the only way I could stop them Smashing together uncontrollably. The helmet was marked from being smashed into the side of the sled and I had a headache even before getting out of the sled.
It was at the bottom of the slide after gaining only a few of my senses that I saw one of the female USA team members in tears. The track was that rough that even with her helmet on her head she had hit the cowling on the inside of the sled with such force that she broke her jaw in 2 places. One of the guys associated with our team is an oral plastic surgeon and he took her to hospital where they had to wire her jaw shut. Unfortunately her Olympic quest is over in preseason as she will not be able to compete again till the season is already over.
The disappointment of my start was over shadowed by the shear relief of being in one piece and I started to nurse my own bumps and bruises from the ride. I would have another opportunity over the next 2 days to improve my start.