Park City Ups and Downs

After the Calgary race, the Intercontinental Cup team boarded a plane early the next morning to Salt Lake City, Utah.  The last two FIBT races of the year were in Park City.   I was looking forward to it as I had done a week of extra training there in January, and during that time got significantly more familiar with the track. I felt I could compete for a medal position.  At the same time I was a little worried because I know it is a pusher’s track, and despite having personal best pushes consistently through the year I still have lingering worries about how I will push on the days that count.

The 6 training runs up to the races were actually quite frustrating.  On the first day, the ice was hard and cold.  I had the perfect setup for those conditions and slid well, having great top speeds along with clean and fast runs.  However, the next day it was cloudy out and the refrigeration was turned off.  The ice warmed up by 8 degrees Celsius!  I was a bit worried my runners were too sharp for the new ice conditions, and I was right.  Despite having clean and relaxed runs, my speeds were much lower and all of a sudden I wasn’t at the the top of the pack of the training group.  The bigger problem was although I identified this as a problem on the second day of training, there was nothing I could do about it as I didn’t bring any runners for soft and warm ice.  All I could do was work on pushing and sliding the best I could and hope for a sunny race day!

On race day I woke up, and immediately looked out the window.  My hopes were crushed, it was overcast.  I checked my computer, and in addition to it being cloudy the temperature was warmer than it had been all week and the humidity was very high.  All these factors lead to soft ice.  When I got to the track I checked the ice temperatures and as predicted the ice was warm.  As I prepared for park ferme, I had a choice to either keep things the same or increase my rock in hopes of gaining more speed.  As I am a slider who loves control, I am usually hesitant to change set-ups on race day without testing it in training.  However, I knew without this risk I would probably have slow speeds and not perform as well as I wanted to.  So I went for it and bumped the rock up to the highest I have ever had it in a race.

The first run went well, I pushed a massive personal best (over a tenth of a second faster than before), and I finished the heat in 6th.  The second run was a near carbon copy and I moved up to 5th place.  The gamble to increase the rock in the runners paid off, although my speeds were still much slower than I would normally expect.  I was pleased with the result, it wasn’t a podium, but it was a personal best push time and two very clean and consistent runs.

For the second race the next morning I was hopeful that maybe the temperature would drop, but of course it didn’t.  During set up for park ferme the ice temperature was almost the same as the day before.  It was a little sunnier outside though, so I was hoping the ice would be a little harder.  I was first off the top, a position that is a double edged sword.  It can be good, as the ice usually slows down as the day goes on.  But, it can be difficult to time the minutes leading up to the start, as there are often delays.  Also, when you are first you have very little idea of how fast the ice is and what to expect in terms of speed.  There are forerunners that go down first, but unless you know what their times normally are, it’s difficult to use their times as predictors.

When it was almost time to go, I received a two minute warning.  I went out to the line, bundled up in the early morning chill, with my helmet tucked under my coat to keep it warm.  I asked my coach if they would give a one minute warning, as was normal custom, and he confirmed it.  Much to both of our surprises, a few moments later “the track is clear for Lanette Prediger” blasted over the loud speakers.  I had 30 seconds to frantically take off my snow suit, get my helmet on, put my sled down and get in position for the push.  Normally when the buzzer goes I am completely ready to go, helmet on, in just my speedsuit.  I normally push off as soon as the track is cleared, as I learned an important lesson a couple of years ago, ironically in Park City.  That race I pushed out of the groove, came back to the block and went again, but was over the 30 second clock by 2 seconds and got disqualified.  I wasn’t going to let that happen again and in warp speed got ready and pushed off the block.  I was a little slower than the day before, but still overall happy with the rushed push.  The ice felt good on the way down, I didn’t feel like I was cutting in as much like on the previous days and when I got to the bottom, was happy with my run.  Of course, going first I had nothing to compare to so would have to wait for everyone else to come down before I would know where I stood.  At the end of the heat, my time held up pretty well and I was in a three way tie for 4th, and only two tenths out of the lead.

I was pumped for the second heat, hoping to move up into medal contention.  I felt confident and strong as I pushed off the block.  Everything was going smoothly until corner 6.  I entered a little late, which makes the oscillations in the corner very dramatic.  By the end of the corner I knew I was in trouble, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t control the height and smashed out of the corner.  I hadn’t made that mistake once  in training, so I was very frustrated, and I knew the consequences would be significant. I did the best I could to hold it together for the rest of the run, but couldn’t make up the lost speed.  Because of the short length of the track, times are really close together and small mistakes can result in devastating consequences.  Unfortunately, my mistake was pretty major, and I fell six spots to tenth.  I felt horrible.  What a lousy way to finish the circuit, especially since I was really hoping to move up onto the podium.

It was a week of roller coaster emotions.  I was thrilled to push well, and I had slid consistently all week.  However, I struggled with equipment, and then made a costly mistake during the second race.  Things are never dull for me in Park City!  Fortunately, there were still a few more weeks of sliding, and two races, left in the season.  Next up…Provincials and Canadians!

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Canadians this weekend

The last race of the year, Canadian Championships, is coming up this weekend at Calgary Olympic Park.  It is a four heat race over two days, March 10 and 11, at 11 am both days.  Come out for the last chance this season to see us speeding down the track head first and to cheer on your Canadian athletes!