After years of preparation, training, blood, tears and sweat and everything else that goes with it, it finally happened. I achieved my longtime goal of earning my spot as the Canada-1 sled and competing in a World Cup skeleton race. Was it everything I had ever dreamed off? Yes, and no.
The first race of the World Cup Circuit for 2014/15 was in Lake Placid, New York. Traditionally this has been a track that I really like and tend to perform well at. However, I hadn’t been there for 4 years and so I was a little nervous heading in, not to mention the fact that it was my first World Cup experience as a competitor ever. I honestly had no idea what to expect.
After only a couple of training runs my body was starting to remember what it felt like to slide this challenging track. It has 20 turns in 55 seconds, in comparison for example to Calgary’s 14 turns in 59 seconds. The result is its common descriptor as a “washing machine”. It has a relatively long push, followed by a flat and easy to skid on upper section. After corner 5, it’s hold on for dear life through the quick and dirty “devil’s highway” section, up and over the big Lake Placid sign in Corner 10, and through one of the toughest corners in the world, corner 12, where it’s more common to be airborne on the exit than not. Following that comes big 14 and into the oxymoronic curvy straight, commonly known as the “chicane” where many a race is won or lost. Next comes the final “heart” section, corners 17-19 where in previous races I have been lucky to hold onto my sled. Overall, it’s fast, technical, and has a few different personalities to contend with wrapped up into one.
After a few days of training I was feeling confident with my lines, but it was coming at a cost. I was feeling the effects of the recent travel to Germany, then back home, and then back across the country again to Lake Placid. World cup is also a different ball game than what I am used to. In addition to the regular training, video analysis, dryland training, and athletic therapy, there are other activities to consider such as headshots, media interviews, as well cameras everywhere you look. It adds another level of intensity, and scrutiny. Although it was beyond exciting I was starting to feel a little worn out. I tried to mitigate the damage with sleeping as much as I could, eating well, hydrating and putting in some balanced time at the gym. By the end of official training though, I could feel the tension in my back and neck, and my legs were heavy.
Race day approached quickly, and the evening before I worked hard to make sure my sled was perfect, my bib was sewn, my bags were packed and I had some food ready for breakfast. The morning of I knew I had done everything I could and I had to let it go and do what I do best- slide.
I was the 21st and final female off, as the race was seeded based on last year’s points (I only was allowed to compete in a partial season). I knew this would be a big disadvantage as the ice can significantly slow down as more and more sliders go down, but there was nothing I could do about it. I pushed off the block hard, ran as fast as I could and settled into my sled. The run was impeccable until corner 12, where I entered too late, flew off the end, and hit out. Previously a nemesis of mine, I hadn’t hit out of 12 all week, but of course it happened in the race. Despite that, I managed to place 11th after the first run.
The second run wasn’t much better. A small error in the top led to an out of control middle section. By the chicane, I truly felt the effects of the “washing machine” track and was behind on steers. A couple of taps through this tricky section and a late entry into 17 sent me flying off the exit and nearly bucked me off my sled. I crossed the finish line with trepidation and was lucky to maintain my position. Although I had hoped for more, I finished 11th.
The worst part about the race was learning my push times. They were slow, and much to my disappointment significantly slower than in training. I can usually count on being a tenth faster in racing than in training, but for some reason this time it actually went the other way. After analyzing everything that happened during the week, I mostly attributed it to fatigue and made a plan to fix it for the next race in Calgary.
Overall I can say that my first world cup race was successful, and I would like to thank everyone who helped along the way. It takes an immense amount of support and help from my community to keep things rolling smoothly and I truly appreciate it all. And of course a huge congratulations to my teammate Elisabeth Vathje who won a silver medal in her first ever world cup race!
Next onto my home track, Calgary. And of course, Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to all!