Meet the sled

The beginning of this week was full of nice weather. It was even sunny for upstate NY! I mean, it wasn’t nice enough to go get a track workout in outside (i’m going through withdrawals)… but practices were pleasant. Workouts and lifting have been going well and I have been trying to incorporate new kinds of workouts but we are somewhat limited because of facilities which sometimes makes it difficult.

As promised, here are picture of my new sled! I will be decorating it this summer at some point and am currently mulling over some ideas in my head. I really had no idea what a skeleton sled even looked like until I came up here. Pictures on the internet are scant so I thought these picture might be interesting for you guys!

So this is the belly of the sled. It is the part that faces the ice. Those silver bars are the runners- which are what actually make contact with the ice. The end of the sled that is sitting on the ground is the front of the sled. So when I slide on it, my chin goes there.

Here’s a close up of the runners. I purchased these in December and they are Davenport Women’s Big Wheels. This type of runner is the standard for newer sliders. They are a good all-around runner. Once I learn more about which runners are good for particular kinds of ice I’ll probably invest in more runners. But for now, these are my practice and race runners so I treat them like gold. You have to cover the runners when transporting the sled so they do not get scratched. Sliders commonly use a plastic garden hose to cover them. The circumference of the runner is roughly equivalent to the circumference of a garden hose. So you just have to cut the hose down the middle to get it on and off the sled. It’s kind of a pain to get on the runner after practice because the hose has gotten really hard and brittle. It doesn’t mold very well but it does get the job done.

The first time I saw runners I was surprised to find out that they were more like a round bar as apposed to a luge sled’s runners. Those look more like the bottom of an ice skate, which is what I had initially imagined they would look like. The picture above is of the spine of the runner. This is the part that makes contact with the sled (and is sharp). But the spine only covers half of the runner, the other half is smooth, round metal.

This is the saddle of the sled. So my feet hang off the right side and my body lays relatively snugly in the middle of the saddle. I hold onto the sled while I am sliding with those “L” shaped handle bars. My hands fit underneath it, while my quads lay ontop of the L-shaped bars to make a sandwich. By having the handles under the body (as opposed to on the side) it forces a slider to keep their shoulders in contact with the front of the sled. You steer with shoulders/knees which would be hard to do if your shoulders were not in contact with the sled the entire time. You have to pad the sled yourself which takes FOREVER. It took me about 4 hours to cut out all of the pieces to the proper size and attach them to the sled. We have to use a special kind of tape called Tesa which can cost upwards of $60 a roll. That’s right. A ROLL. After getting everything secure you have to blow dry the tape to set it in place for good. The tape wont fall off when it gets wet or cold which is imperative for skeleton. Apparently if a piece of tape falls off your sled during a race in Europe there can be a 200 euro fine! Lame, right?

I will leave you with an amazing video of fellow Devo athlete, Kellie doing a 360 on the track before turn 1. I thought I would never see it happen, but alas… it even happened a second time this past week to Alex. I do not have a video of Alex’s 360, but I will for my next post. Just for the record, Kellie nor Alex was harmed in the process! They both managed to enter turn 1 going the correct direction and make it all the way down the track like a champ.

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Montreal and a new sled

First thing is first, a big thank you to my first 2 sponsors (aside from the parentals), Kevin Sullivan and Rory LaGrotta! Thanks for the support!

I never thought I would live somewhere cold enough to have a huge lake freeze over, much less watch a dog sled travel around the circumference of it. I contemplated changing from skeleton to the Iditarod for about 2 seconds. Then I remembered how I don’t like dogs and how cold the musher’s face must be. Wikipedia (always reliable) says the Iditarod is over 1000 miles long and takes 9-15 days to complete. “Teams frequently race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach −100 °F (−73 °C).”

Uhh…. on Tuesday it was -12F when we finished sliding and I thought my hands were going to fall off. I mean, people think skeleton is crazy… but why the hell would you wanna hang out outside for 9-15 days in -100F weather? That is legitimately terrible. I see no positives.

Here is the view from my current seat. Grey skies, snow, a frozen lake, and dog sleds!

To backtrack a little, before the holidays I went to Montreal for the weekend with Adrienne, Nick and Jeremy. After some of the hostels I stayed in while traveling Europe (ie- Amsterdam, Prague… the airport) this hostel was super nice. If anyone is planning a trip up there, I recommend Montreal Central. At the time, I thought it was cold but this past Tuesday’s -12F made me realize that +10F is warm. My definition of what “cold” is redefined every week.

Montreal was really cute. It’s only 2 hours away which made for a good weekend getaway. There are parts of it that remind me a lot of a picturesque European town. But I also managed to go to a casino for the first time. Adrienne and Jeremy played some poker and came out on top. I mostly people watched. I don’t know if all casinos are like the one we went to, but it was nothing like that TV show “Las Vegas.” Pretty sure Adrienne was 1 of 3 women playing poker.

The first day we walked around the town and I ate the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. I do not kid. THE BEST. It was a smoked meat sandwich and would certainly make any vegetarian a bit queasy. I didn’t take any pictures of my sandwich but here’s one I found online.

Yummmmm…

Ok, enough about sandwiches and the Iditerod… back to skeleton. Upon returning to Lake Placid, I got my new sled. The ice all week has been pretty fast, which made for an interesting first few days of sliding on a new sled. I padded it on Tuesday which took 4 hours. Yeah, 4 hours. What is worse, is that I will certainly be doing that more than once. You have to cut out a dense foam to fill in the sled. It is a very tedious process. I will take pictures of my sled this week and add them into my next post! The pod (this is the plastic cover on the bottom of the sled) is a plain black right now. I will be getting a new one in the summer and plan on painting it. In the mean time I need to come up with an appropriate name for her. Yes, I decided my sled was a “her.” I’m open to suggestions!

We are going cross country skiing this week as a team. Wish me luck. Anyone who knows me, knows that this whole long distance/cardio thing is not really up my alley. I think the longest I have run in the past 6 months has been 21 minutes. And it was not fast. Ok, I’m making myself sound really un-athletic. So let me remind you guys, I love sprinting.

I have never been skiing before in my life and the thought of doing all the work to move from point A to point B seems like… well… a lot of work. I like it when gravity moves things for me. But I want to learn how to ski and I’m sure it will be fun.

Workouts this week have gone pretty well. I have started to incorperate triple jump drills into my workouts. Why you ask? Well the push start is very dependent on hip flexor strength and flexibilty. The drills are an excellent way to work on that. It makes me kind of miss triple jumping. Then I remember the perpetual sandy pants and I am brought back to reality. Also, because it is too cold to sprint outside, the longest I can sprint for in our gym is about 35 meters. It is a nice change of pace.

I am off to see Sherlock Holmes at the movie theater that costs $7. NO MORE TYSONS CORNER AND $16 MOVIE TICKETS. Win!

I will have those pictures of my new sled for you guys next time!

Crash course in Bobsled… literally

This week flew by! And this is going to be a massive update. The internet at the OTC has not been working all week. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop typing this out. On Thursday the computer lab’s internet wasn’t working either so I drove out to town and sat in my car on main street to pay my credit card bill and buy a plane ticket. Did I mention it was past midnight? Yeah. I’m sketchy.

Anyway, I got a new sled which is a definite step up from my school sled. I’ll be renting it for the season. Because these sled are exclusively “ours” for the season, we are supposed to take them back to the OTC with us to maintain it accordingly. It has severely cut back on my car’s ability to carry people. We did manage to fit a 3rd person into the car. Please meet my roommate, Adrienne. She’s getting cozy with 2 sleds after practice:

I felt like made solid improvements this week in whilst sliding. My brush spikes still haven’t come yet, but I did have some good push starts! I’m trying to make my sprint workouts more directly applicable to the sprinting portion of skeleton. There is a wooden block in the gym that is used for working on starts. So every short sprint I did this week was off of this block. Instead of doing a typical stationary track start, I tried mimic the rocking motion I use when pushing the sled. In addition, I have to get more comfortable with starting with my left foot in the front. My stronger leg is definitely my right, and I can summon much more power with an the block behind it as opposed to flat on the ice. Here’s a quick video of what Adrienne and I have been doing in the gym this week:

The end result was this at the track:

The loading portion of my push start needs a lot of work. You are supposed to load on you chest and not your stomach. If you load on your chest, you can gather more momentum downwards resulting in a faster start. I pushed a 5.46 this week- which is a really solid start time! I would like to break into the 40’s more often but I also think I need to focus how to drive properly. The push start doesn’t win you the race, it can just give you a head start on the ride down. The driving the track is more important.

On Friday, my former roommate and local mad scientist, Ida, pulled some strings and got me a temporary job as a brakeman for pilot Katelyn Kelly. The other brakemen there padded me up for the ride down which proved to be a good call on their part. They gave me a crash course in how to push the bobsled In turn 8 we crashed and I am definitely feeling it one day later. Generally when a bobsled crashes, you are supposed to stay in the sled and pull into the belly of the sled as much as possible. This is so your head doesn’t get smacked around on the ice and to avoid an ice burn. I went airborne for a moment (I think this is when we landed on our side) and then I felt ice on my right side. It took my brain a second to register that we had crashed and I yanked up hard to get myself into the sled. Since we crashed in the top third of the track, we rode down the rest of the track on our side. Then when I finally thought we had stopped, we started going backwards! When it actually finally stop moving I had so much adrenaline pumping- it was the to most bizarre sensation. I’m fine apart from a very sore back, neck and biceps. Serious props to all those brakemen our there. I think I will stick with skeleton thankyouverymuch.

After bobsledding we had a friendly race between all the skeleton people here this week. We’ll be having one every Friday from now on to keep our heads in race mode. The races are also to teach new people about race procedure, which is something I find very helpful. I broke 60 seconds for the first time! Woo! My fastest time was a 59.83. My combined time was a 1:59.97, which I am happy with. I came in 8th of the 12 people racing, which isn’t that great but it included more experienced sliders so I am pleased. That finish put me first of the new sliders, which was also pretty neat. But every week is a new race and anything can happen next week. I will keep you guys posted!

I will conclude the long blog post with a short video of me pathetically trying to carry my sled up the stars: