I’m Back!

Yes, yes… it’s been a while since my last post. Like, a whole season. I’m so sorry! I spent a ton of time last season travelling and I couldn’t seem to find the time to post. I promise I’ll do a better job of updating for you guys.

To give you quick summary of last season:
-I won National Push Championship

-After National Team Trials, I raced in a few races on the North America Cup.

-I won the Western Regional in Park City, UT. I had a lot of problems with this track in the beginning of the season, but I really think it started to click after spending a solid month there before the race. By winning this race, I have guaranteed myself National Team Trials in October.

-I went on the longest road trip of my life. My teammate and I drove my Honda Civic… In JANUARY from Virginia to Calgary, Canada… roughly 3,000 miles. We trained in Calgary at the site of the 1988 Olympics and then drove 1,000 south to Park City, Utah and trained there for a month and a half. Following training in Park City, we drove back to Lake Placid to finish out the season. I know, it seems crazy to drive that much, but we were out west for 2 months. My car gets good mileage and we wouldn’t have to pay for a car rental, which are outrageously priced.

Yeah, I can pretty much drive through anything now. What did I learn? South Dakota is a terrifying state during a blizzard. Adrienne and I took video and documented the whole thing. Gracie (another one of my teammates) drove back with me to Lake Placid and together we’re working on making a road trip video.

Here’s a quick summary of the trip:
-Leave Virginia, drive to Long Island and pick up Adrienne.
-Drive from Long Island to Chicago, spend 2 days with Erik (a former teammate in the windy city)
-Drive to Wall, South Dakota during a blizzard. South Dakota is the most desolate place I’ve ever visited. There were 50 mph winds and it was -30 degrees at night while we were driving. During the day it was -10 degrees. We drove through the Badlands, which I’ve posted some pictures of below.

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-We saw Mount Rushmore and Crazy horse which are both nestled in the Black Hills.
Mount_Rushmore_National_Memorial

crazyhorse1

-We drove to Billings, Montana and spent the night there.
-We drove to Calgary and stayed with my friend from college, Phil. Phil happens to live about 2 minutes from the top of the track in Calgary. Amazing visit, and a great learning experience for Adrienne and I. We traveled there alone, and trained with the Koreans. No other Americans or Canadians were there.
-I saw 2 Bald Eagles on the drive. America!!

-Following Calgary, we drove to Park City and trained there for a month. This was our backyard. Utah is a beautiful place. In addition, Adrienne and I got there in time to attend Sundance Film Festival. I’d love to go back. We saw 3 movies. photo1

Overall, the season was full of ups and downs. Sled problems, confidence in driving, stress… the usual. But honestly, I ultimately I felt like I came out on top and learned some great things. I feel great going into next season. I have more posts, to make so stay tuned!

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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!

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 — writing — 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.

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.

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!