Our first two races on the Intercontinental Circuit were held in beautiful Lillehammer, Norway. Lillehammer is a small city in the middle of Norway, about 5 hours from Oslo, and home to the 1994 winter Olympic Games. The track is actually about 20 minutes away near a small village called Hunderfossen.
We were fortunate to have an extra week of training prior to the race week. The track itself isn’t one of the more difficult ones in the world, but like every track it has its nuances and challenging sections. Also, the track is quite bumpy, similar to Calgary in the early season, which is a different kind of challenge. Personally, I really enjoyed the track, with its long glidey sections and quick and technical bottom. Like Calgary, it’s relatively easy to get down the track, but hard to get down fast.
Training went well, although I did have some issues with fatigue due to a combination of jet lag, high volume training, and absolute lack of sunshine. Coming from the desert climate of Calgary, where the vast majority of days are sunny, it was difficult to go to a northern latitude when the sun was only up between 10 am and 3 pm, and then only grazed along the top of the mountains. Also, the weather was either continuously raining, snowy or hazy. The net result was a nearly sunless two weeks. I never realized how much I enjoy the sun, and how it important it is in the regulation of my sleep cycle and energy levels!
I had high hopes for race #1, I was training well and excited for the first race on the circuit. However, that morning I was having some lingering back pain and felt physically tired for the reasons aforementioned. I tried to pump myself up as much as possible, using a few techniques like high energy music and a full and snappy warm up. I also brought some of my favorite energy drinks over from home. I took one before the first run, and felt pretty good before the first heat. The temperature was also significantly lower than in training, but I decided to leave the same runners and amount of bend in the runner (rock) as in training, hoping to eek out some extra speed.
I was pumped for the first run and pushed off the block with determination. I made a couple of minor mistakes on the way down, but overall had a decent run. I also had a great push. Much to my delight I was in second place after the first run! There was quite a long wait between heats though, and I could feel my energy levels dropping again. I tried everything I could think of to get activated as the second heat approached, and decided to take another whole energy drink. Keep in mind, I am not a coffee drinker. I definitely feel the effects of smaller doses of caffeine. By the time I got to the block for my second run I was actually vibrating from the excitement and the caffeine. My push was good, but soon after loading the sled I could feel the jitters and started to get a little bit skiddy. Skidding in skeleton is one of the surest ways to lose speed. It doesn’t feel as dramatic as hitting a wall, or popping the groove, but it can be just at damaging. I made a few minor mistakes on the way down, but then skidded through the straight between 13 and 14, and I could feel the speed slip away. I crossed the line, and unfortunately, had dropped down to 5th. I was frustrated with myself, knowing I could have done much better. But a valuable lesson was learned– ditch the double dose of energy drink, and pay more attention to weather conditions/ice temperatures.
The next day I felt a little better prepared for the race, and slid more consistently. I finished in 3rd place, a podium in only my second race at the intercontinental level! Considering the depth of talent at this level, I was extremely pleased with this result. Hopefully it is a predictor of more good things to come!
Next stop, Sigulda, Lativa.