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!

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First Official Race and NYC

Sorry for the delayed post, everyone! This is going to be a long one. So much has happened in 2 weeks! First and foremost… I get to be a pilot sled for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS! They picked 2 girls from the new sliders to do it and Caitlin and I got the job. A pilot sled is like skeleton’s equivalent to a rabbit in track & field. I will be the first slider to go and will show the other sliders the way which the grooves run. The grooves (that the sled sits in for the first 40 meters) can be cut different ways. So I am not allowed to steer at all going into the first turn in order to show the other sliders where my sled would go naturally. This means I get housing at the Olympic Training Center for the World Championships and get to slide through to Nationals.

I usually post on the weekends, but last weekend I went to New York City! It’s a solid 5 hours from Lake Placid, but it as well worth it. I went down with Nick and met up with Allyson, a former track teammate, at Madison Square Garden for the Track & Field US Open. The meet itself was very small but the quality of the athletes was top notch. I don’t know if you guys follow track but some really big names were there including: Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin, LoLo Jones, David Oliver, Nesta Carter, Jenn Suhr, Kellie Wells, Bershawn Jackson a trio of shotputters (Christian Cantwell, Adam Nelson, Ryan Whiting) and my favorite track athlete…. Bernard Lagat! Although Lagat got nipped at the line in the mile, it was a great race and an overall quality weekend. After the meet I met up with some of my former USA Track & Field Co-workers and the following day I went (what else?) shopping! The trip back was moderately uneventful, minus the fact that it took Nick and I 40 minutes to find a gas station in Albany. I know Albany is a city and all… but WHERE ARE YOUR GAS STATIONS?! One of the Lugers told me a story about how they ran out of gas at 2am on I-87 and had to call for help. That seemed pretty terrible to me and I am definitely not trying for that… ever.

After returning late that snowy Sunday, I got geared up for another week of sliding. It was definitely a week of ups and downs as the ice was pretty wily all week (mostly because of the weather). Monday started off pretty well as I strung together some decent runs. Tuesday was not the same case, as a poor second run led to a stiff and unresponsive 3rd run. All I wanted was some good runs but by the time Wednesday rolled around it was close to 40 degrees and the track was 10 seconds slow. BOO. After getting up to 71mph, dropping back down to 58mph felt like a snail’s speed.

But on Friday I competed in my first official race! It was for the Empire State Winter Games which is like an mini Olympics for the state of New York. In general, the sports are geared for younger kids, but participants of Skeleton are generally older, so it was the same crew racing that usually races- with the addition of a few more experienced women.

I ended up coming in 2nd! Since the World championships are coming up, they have been working on the track and it was pretty quick. I had down times of 57.75 and 57.96 which is pretty good for me, so I am pleased. The girl that won, Lauren, had 2 solid runs too-her times were 57.47 and 57.71. Sam came in 3rd with times of 58.26 and 58.46.

I have got some pictures and clips or you guys! Firstly, here is my roommate Gracie and myself with our sleds after the race today.

I mentioned in my last post that Gracie and I were teaming up to do our team building exercise- bobsled. Well we took the kid’s sleds from start 4, which is halfway down the track. It was a blast. We each got 2 runs of driving and 2 runs of pushing. Going from skeleton to bob was very different. I felt like I could see everything in bobsled because as a driver, I was sitting up. With skeleton I can really only see as far as my head is up off the ice. If skeleton is like driving my Honda Civic, then Bobsled is like driving my mother’s mini-van. Gracie and I bonded together to make team Keyboard Cat. If you don’t know was Keyboard Cat is, you fail at the internet. I will enlighten you.

Here is our interpretation of it. I just need Keyboard cat to play us off as we start to actually slide. I’m pushing in the first one, and Gracie is pushing in the second one. Yes, we are weird. Embrace it.

The highlight of the night was Corinne doing bikini bobsled. Yes, it is exactly what you think. Corinne. Bikini. Pushing bobsled. Mind you is was really cold this evening but she managed to strip down and tough it out for 50 seconds. Visit Corinne’s blog here.

I will leave you guys with a video Nick took a video of me going through turn 9 on Thursday. Remember last time I was talking about how turns 9-12 are all connected? Well here is the start of that chain of turns. Check out more of his videos at nathancrumpton.com.

I know the video is only 5 seconds, but it is at such a close angle! You really start to pick up speed once you exit 10 (the big turn that is one turn after the one filmed). They open up the shades for the World Championships so perhaps I’ll get a video of of that turn. From what I understand, I don’t get a whole lot of height in 10. Definitely something I need to study and work on. I’ll leave you guys for Superbowl Sunday!

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!

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: