National Push Champion!

Ok, so not the most eloquent title for this blog post, but that’s some pretty big news, right? It’s been about a month since I have updated and have stayed up in Lake Placid at the Olympic Training Center for most of the time. The next big event for me was the National Push Championships. I think I’ve showed you guys a few videos of the push track, but basically we have a sled on wheels that sits on top of some tracks. There are timers set up and we push the sled to see how fast we can get it moving. The championships were yesterday… and I won! Yay!

We took 2 pushes each and I had the fastest combined time. In addition, I set a women’s track record for fastest push at the push track. The men also had a track record with Mitch Danbe (on push 2) but the title was won by John Daly. Pretty sure this is his 4th or 5th title. They are building a new push track for us right behind the OTC which is where the bobsledders will have their push champs next Friday and Saturday.

Women’s
1) Veronica Day (Push 1) 5.35 (Push 2) 5.31 (Total) 10.66
2) Lauren Salter (Push 1) 5.41 (Push 2) 5.34 (Total) 10.75
3) Caitlin Carter (Push 1) 5.44 (Push 2) 5.41 (Total) 10.85

Men’s
1) John Daly (Push 1) 4.85 (Push 2) 4.85 (Total) 9.7
2) Mitch Danbe (Push 1) 4.88 (Push 2) 4.83 (Total) 9.71
3) Nathan Crumpton (Push1) 4.85 (Push 2) 4.88 (Total) 9.73

I’ve been out at the push track A LOT. I am glad it has paid off. Here are a few videos of practice sessions. I just got an iphone (my first smart phone… and I have no idea how to use it) and there are probably 15 videos of me at the push track. One of the first apps I downloaded was a slow-motion one. It’s called coachmyvideo, was free… and it is amazing for this kind of stuff.

A vid of the load:

Start Drills:

So what does this mean for the future? Nothing really, except that I have proved myself as a push athlete. Push championships for bobsled brakemen are super important since their sole job is to push the sled as fast as possible. They typically get picked up by drivers depending on how well they perform at push champs.

But since skeleton athletes are not on teams, the same individual pushing is also driving. While pushing is a very important variable, driving is a bigger one. I have begun doing video for Lake Placid since we get on the ice in 2 weeks. It is definitely going to be a shock to the system. It has been 6 months since I’ve been down on the ice and when I watch video it baffles me how fast we go. My eyes are going to need to adjust big time. I’m definitely a bit nervous but we’re just going to have to wait and see how it goes. All I can do is study until we get back on the ice.

In the past month I also went to my sled maker’s house to give my sled a bit of a face lift. She’s got a shiny red pod now! In addition, I got a saddle (the part I lay in) custom made for my body. I need to re-pad the whole sled which is a huge pain in the butt, but I definitely think it’ll be worth it. I bought a sweet patterned yoga mat from yogamatic.com. My roommate (Kristina Hull) custom designed her last year for her sled and even though they are expensive, I definitely think it’ll be worth it. I used regular camping foam last year and ended up having to tape the whole top of the sled because the foam kept tearing. This yoga mat I bought is a bit stiff, so I don’t foresee it tearing as easy. Plus the tape is $65 a roll. Ouch.

I will leave you guys with a picture of the the new pod on my sled!

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National Championships!

Ok. So it’s been a while and I’m going to have to break up what has happened into a few different posts. I’m going to start with the most recent events (US National Championships) and then in the next post tell you about the World Championships. Both of these events deserve a well rounded post and I don’t want to short anything! All of the pictures are courtesy of Nick Crumpton (what else is new? He takes lots of pics and then I steal them.)

So, this past weekend Lake Placid hosted the National Championships! Aside from being… you know… Nationals, it is a very important event for all of the new sliders. New sliders who do well are more likely to get invited to participation in Team Trials next fall. And team Trials are what decide what circuit you will race on. There are 4 circuits (World Cup, Inter-Continental Cup, Europa Cup and America’s Cup). If I don’t want to be stuck in Lake Placid all season, I need to make a circuit next year.

My parents and a friend (Kevin) came up to watch me compete on Saturday and Sunday in the 4-heat race. It was great seeing them and the only thing better would have been if they brought my cat up too. Here’s Chirp:

Erik and Gracie, this picture of my cat is for you guys. I felt the post would not be complete without the mention of a cat.

I had some ups and downs while forunning for World Championships so I was a bit nervous going into official training. But after official training I felt pretty good for day 1 on Saturday. The weather was amicable and the ice was soft but fast. My first run was a PR start and downtime of 5.48 and 57.48, respectively. That put me in 11th going into heat 2. Not exactly what I was looking for. My steers in the first run were just too strong. I was too antsy on the sled and overcompensated for a few steers which cost me some time. Run 2 proved to be much cleaner as I recorded a new PR downtime of 57.27 and I moved up 4 spots into 7th place going into Day 2. Much better.

The temperature dropped 15 degrees on Sunday. It was in the low 20s during competition and the ice was super hard and subsequently faster than on the previous night. I took my first run and PRd again with a downtime of 57.18! But my time bumped me back into 8th place by .01 seconds.

Uh-oh! Even though I had PRd, I had dropped a place and had another race (America’s Cup at the end of the month) on the line. I had kept my rock the same from Saturday to Sunday. Rock is the amount of bow in the runners. The more the runners are bowed, the less friction there is on the ice and the faster you will go. But because there is less friction, there is also less control and it is easier to skid. Since the ice was soft on Saturday and really hard on Sunday I skidded quite a bit on that 3rd run. Despite the PR, it was not a particularly clean run.

During the Parc Ferme (this is the allotted amount of time you have to work on the sled before and in between runs) I lowered my rock a touch and got ready to try and fix the errors I had made for run 4. The nerves I deal with for skeleton are on another level compared to the ones I dealt with for Long/Triple Jump. I think part of that will taper just because by the time I graduated from college I was very confident in my abilities. I am still so new to skeleton and one lapse of judgment can easily mess up an entire run.

Run 4 had much less skidding. I managed to PR by 4 more hundredths and put down a 57.14. The time moved me back up into 7th place and I finished the race in that position. How does this compare to the rest of the field? There were 18 competitors and a few of the girls who I beat were on the America’s Cup and Europa Cup circuits this past season. I am really pleased with the results and have been given the opportunity to compete in my first international race at the end of the month! The last race of the season is an America’s Cup race in Lake Placid and because I was the first of the new development athletes to come in, I was give one of the 4 spots to race for the US!

Complete results from Nationals can be found here.

As far as other women racing, there were some really stellar performances. The others participating are all fierce competitors and I can only imagine what it will be like on an international level. Hats of to Megan Henry (who won) for blasting the sled off the block in a really impressive fashion.

So what does this mean for me? It means I’m in Lake Placid for another 3 weeks training for the America’s Cup race. Then I’m back home for the summer! I took today off and am getting back after it tomorrow. A lot of people left Lake Placid for the season including 2 of my good friends here (Andia and Erik). Womp 😦 In addition to the America’s Cup race I got invited to participate in FIBT school. The FIBT is the international governing body for bobsled and skeleton. They have a school every year for new international development athletes to go to. So all of the other good development athletes from around the world will fly into Lake Placid and get coached by other international coaches. I’m pretty excited to meet more skeleton athletes who are also at the beginning of their careers.

I’ll post another update about forrunning for the World Championships. The athletes I was surrounded by for the week of Worlds were top notch! It was an amazing experience.

On another note, I did a “Where Are They Now?” interview with the Southern Conference! Watch it HERE.

Sorry for the lack of updates recently… it has been super hectic. I will get a post up about Worlds shortly!

Curling, Aerial Skiing and oh yeah… Skeleton.

Another week down in the OTC. The season feels like it is almost over! It’s not really, but it is flying by. Sara Mitchell, a good friend of mine, has a new blog called Health Done Right. She’s a fantastic writer and this blog is utilizing her “professional passion β€” writing β€” to make healthy and permanent changes to her life.” Be sure to check it out!

I have videos of some push stuff I have been working on recently. Becca, one of our coaches, is working with us to be more explosive and powerful off the block. We have been using a sled on rollerblades with a 45lb plate to practice with. So the sled itself weighs 90-95lbs. That’s way heavier than the sled I actually use, which is about 63lbs. The sled kind of naturally veers off to the side since there is no groove holding it in place, but this is a good drill for working on your knee drive. The hardest part of this drill is stopping the sled. Once you get it moving it’s pretty hard to stop because it is so heavy.

Here’s a new video of a recent push on the track. This push I believe was a 5.52, which is a decent time but I would like to implement some of the new things I have learned from our push sessions to see if I can get it faster. The hardest part of the push for me is getting warmed up enough to run it quickly. I was one of those people at track meets that would have my best jumps after a race because I was so warmed up. There isn’t room to sprint (or really do quality drills) in the start house. That leaves outside. Not only is it cold, but the ice and snow on the road makes doing drills and sprinting rather perilous. I have been wrestling with new ways of warming up but haven’t come up with a firm solution just yet.

We had another inter-squad race on Friday and I won! It was a 3 heat race, which is atypical but I strung together 3 good runs, including a PR (personal record). 57.82, 57.72 and 58.21. The starts were not that great, but I did manage to get turn 12 right for the first time ever! I split the track up into sections and turns 9-12 are all connected in my eyes. If you get one wrong, the rest are varying degrees of bad. My problem has been getting out of 10 at the right time. It’s the biggest turn on the track but there seems to be a small window for exiting it properly. Here’s what usually happens to me: I can’t hold the sled up on the curve in 9 so I don’t get a good cross from 9 to 10. That poor cross makes me too late to exit 10, and if you’re late to 11, it’s impossible to get to 12 on time. See? They’re all strung together. But the point is, I got 12 right for once. Woo!

Here’s a picture of the top 3. 2nd went to Corinne DiPietro and 3rd went to Caitlin Carter.

You can visit Corinne’s blog is here: Head Phirst
or Caitlin’s here: Challenge the Impossible

So we went XC skiing last week which was fun! But this week we got to do curling which was awesome! At the last Olympics I remember watching hours of curling. The entire time I had no idea what the hell was going on. Well after actually playing I still have no idea what the hell is going on. Don’t know what curling is? Here:

This is my boss team.

On Friday night the Skiing Freestyle World Cup was in Lake Placid. So I went outside from 8-10pm at night to watch people do all kinds of crazy flips and twists! It was AWESOME. China also went 1-2-3 for the women and 1-2 for the men. I didn’t know they were that awesome at skiing, but it was a legit Chinese domination on Friday. I stood next to a fire pit for a good chunk of the evening ans still managed to be cold. Let me describe to you what I was wearing:

Thick fleece spandex good for 20 degrees, soccer pants and sweatpants. 2 pairs of wool socks, boots. 2 layers of under armour/nike cold gear tops, a sweatshirt, winter jacket, windbreaker shell. Fleece gloves under thick mittens, and 2 hats. AND I STILL WASN’T WARM ENOUGH. But the thing is, I don’t think I could have physically put on any more clothes. Aw… and as I finished this paragraph, an ad just came on pandora for something in Greensboro, NC. They must think I still live in civilization. So sad.

Well, that’s all for this week. In other news, I met some luge kids! They’re awesome. And their equipment is really weird. The strangest being spiked torture-like gloves. We run the sled off the block, but they paddle with their hands. I’m going to try and get a picture of a sled, runners and gloves sometime this week.

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: