World Cups #6, 7- Hot and Cold in Igls, Austria
After the race that never happened in La Plagne, we packed up and travelled down the French Alps, back through Italy, and up into Austria. Igls was the 7th stop on the World Cup Circuit. As I predicted the cancelled race was replaced by a second race in Igls. As alluded to in my previous blog, it’s safe to say finding out that news wasn’t my favorite moment of the season.
Igls is a track that I have a guarded relationship with. Touted as one of the easiest tracks on circuit, it seems to be a place most athletes like to come. It’s certainly not scary and doesn’t usually require any aggressive steering. However for me it has some significant limitations. First, it’s short. Really short. Because of my deficit on the push time I need at least some length in a track to “make up” for it on the way down. With a reasonably good run, the push can carry the entire way down. In Igls, generally your push rank after the first 50 meters will predict your finishing rank. This season my push ranks have regrettably been near the bottom. Add to this my previous experiences at Igls. In the most recent ICC race in 2014 I melted my visor and did the second run blind from corner 2 on. The year before I decided to take a brand new sled down with only 2 runs in training and for the first and only time in my career failed to get a second run. Finally, in my first competitive sliding season I had to do 3 one-heat races in one day because of terrible weather conditions and despite training at the top of the pack all week ended up finishing outside the top 6 in all three “races”. Needless to say, I would have been a lot happier had any other track been used as the replacement World Cup race!
Despite all that, I boxed up my crappy attitude for the week and focused on having good lines and form. I even stuck to the plan of a heavy dryland training week, in preparation for the upcoming World Championships, even knowing it could hurt my push on race day. But I had to put my ego aside and focus on what was most important.
Training went well. I sorted out my equipment and pinned down my lines by the end of the six allotted training runs. Race day came along without incident and I was ready. I focused on having a technically sound push with as much power and speed as possible, and then settled into the sled. I had a nice first run and executed my lines out of Kreisel and 9 the way I wanted. I crossed the line knowing I had a good run. At the end of the heat I couldn’t believe I was tied for 9th position!
I tried to keep it cool between runs. A potential top ten finish in Igls was beyond my wildest dreams. When it came time for my run I managed to push 5/100ths faster, however, I did fall before the person ahead of me. But, it was only by one spot so I was guaranteed a top ten finish! Another athlete fell behind me so in the end I finished 9th. Although 9th may not seem like much, for me it was a huge accomplishment. My push rank was 17th and 18th in those runs. Therefore, I did what many, including myself would consider nearly impossible.
The only damper on the day was knowing I had to do it all again tomorrow. Our races were back to back, and the second race started at a ridiculously early 8 am! This meant I had to go directly home from the race and eat, sled prep, and try to get in the tiniest amount of recovery.
One thing I hadn’t accounted for was the change in weather overnight. The forecast had predicted snow, which I prepared for, but the air temperatures dropped significantly more than I planned for. Furthermore, as the sun hadn’t risen by the start of our race I was worried I had the wrong runners on for these different conditions.
Unfortunately I was right. With the snow and the harder ice my runners didn’t have the amount of grip I needed. During my first run I felt like I was “floating” on the ice which is never a good thing. I had a decent run, but with the small mistakes and microskids was only in 12th position after the first run.
I hoped the ice would warm up a bit for the second but it didn’t. In Igls, because the track is so short, the times are clustered very tightly and it is possible to see dramatic changes in positioning after combining two runs. For me, this happened, but unfortunately in the wrong direction. During my second run I was even skiddier which was compounded by a few small mistakes. To my dismay as I crossed the finish line I realized I had fallen 5 spots. I was devastated. After all the athletes went down, I did move up one spot but finished 17th. Although at the beginning of the week that would have been the result I expected, I was still terribly disappointed.
On the bright side, at least I didn’t hit a mysterious flyaway broom!
Once again Igls proved to be challenging. Given that next year World Championships are here next year it gives me even more motivation to get my push to level where it needs to be. Otherwise any small tip of the scale, whether it be the wrong runners, a small mistake at the top of the track, a small skid, or any other of the myriad of problems that can occur on the way down the track, will have devastating consequences for me. I accept the challenge and resolve to spend the off season doing everything I can to remedy the situation. I want to allow myself to be in a position where I don’t have to always be perfect during the run. What a breath of fresh air that would be!
Next stop, a track I have spent years dreaming about–Sochi, Russia!