Saturday, March 01, 2003

February 28, 2003

I'm glad the season is over. I've learned a lot about myself, and I've learned a lot about the sport. I've learned that it's something I can do for a long while, and that this is something that requires a lot more mind power than physical ability.

We had our final race today, and the club decided to make it a fun event as befits the season ender. Our first run would be normal, but the second run was where the wackiness really began. Awards were going to be given out for a variety of categories, including ugliest speed suit, most duct tape, most scraped chinguard, most concrete taken out on the track and some others. The Bargo brothers really took that first category to heart, with Greg in a velour houndstooth sportcoat, and Brandon in some cow-print pants, and a disco-era jacket that brought to mind Elvis in Las Vegas. The most fun, however, came at the start. Tom Raty and I decided that the starts needed to be "unconventional," and so we came up with six options:

1 - Hop on left leg, pushing from the left side of the sled
2 - Hop on right leg, pushing from the right side of the sled
3 - Double leg hop, pushing from behind the sled
4 - Lie down on the sled, and use your arms to push you down the track
5 - Track officials push you off the top
6 - Slider's choice (subject to safety approval by the officials)

Sliders would draw a number out of a hat to determine their start. Needless to say, there would be some major changes on the leaderboard after the first run, as start times, which normally vary by 0.3 - 0.4 seconds, would now vary by 1 - 2 seconds. With every tenth of a second at the start translating to three-tenths at the bottom, we were looking at a big difference. But who cares? Watching people hop, paddle, and generally crawl down the the start ramp was a complete hoot. Sarah Moffit, one of the junior girls had Lorenzo push her with a broom, and she did a 5.19 -- easily a personal best. Tristan had the Bargo brothers each grab a leg and send her down. But beyond a doubt, the start of the day belonged to Greg Bargo.

With the clock ticking down, he still hadn't decided what he was going to do, so he put his left foot on the sled, pushed a couple of times with his right, then, to the amazement of everyone, stood up on the sled and surfed it over the crest of the start ramp before dropping down into his run. It was one of those truly perfect moments as the whole crowd roared its approval.

While the results really didn't matter, I ended up in third place overall (thanks to Jason Vanderhoven being disqualified for not taking an unconventional start on his second run), which meant that in three club races this season, I had taken the bronze medal in all of them. At our post-race party, I was awarded the "Bronze Broom," as well as a special award bestowed by the officials -- the Helmet Toss Prize for my little tantrum back at the seeding races. It was all in good fun, and there was plenty of laughter all around. I'm sure the guys in Placid are having a good time, but I think they missed out on the real party.

So what's next? I guess I'm just going to try and work out like a fiend this summer. Gotta get bigger, faster and stronger. I'll take the sled apart and try to tweak it to give it more flexibility, plus it'll get a new paint job. Other than that, who knows. I'll try to keep this up-to-date as events warrant -- with results from the four-item test, push camp, and possible road trip up to the Calgary Ice House for some start training.

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments -- keep them coming, they help keep me inspired and focused on my goals.

From the finish dock to you, here ends Sliding Year One.
February 26 - 27, 2003

And so this is how the season comes to a close. We've got our last two training sessions before the club race on Friday, and they're a little bit lonely without all the guys who are out in Lake Placid for Nationals. There were only six of us at the session on Wednesday, plus Tristan Gale who just wanted to end the season on a relaxed note, and not compete. It's pretty cool that we get to slide with the Olympic gold medalist, and I have to say, for someone who holds the highest honor in the sport, she's a pretty normal person -- assuming you think that normal is an ever-changing palette of hair color, an insatiable love of candy, and the generally bouncy demeanor of a puppy.

Not much to say about the sliding -- the ice is pretty chopped up from the dozens of four-man bobsleds that the park has been sending down in a last-dash grab for cash. Passenger bobsled rides are $200 per person, and they've been sending 75 people a day down the track. While I think it's great for the park to make money, because heaven knows, they don't make very much from race spectators, coming into an outrun that looks like wide-wale corduroy from the bobsled brakes isn't a whole lot of fun. I had some decent, but not spectacular runs, and without the top guys around to compete against it just doesn't feel the same.

I thought I was going to be competing with Ivan for the top spot in the race on Friday, but as it turns out, he was given a last-minute invitation to Nationals for being the ninth place finisher. Just another example of how disorganized the federation is, where they change rules when the mood strikes them. On the brighter side, that may mean I will get a shot at team selection races next fall, because they might change that rule between now and then. Oh well, I wish him, and all the guys the best of luck out there, though a part of me hopes they finish out of the top 18, so that I'll get to slide with them again next year. Sure it's selfish, but, hey, it's what I'm feeling.

Monday, February 24, 2003

February 22 - 23, 2003

I'm convinced now that I've forgotten how to slide. It's been over a week since we've been on the ice, and I've barely even looked at my sled. As luck would have it, Park City finally got some snow on Saturday, and apparently it was blowing so hard up at the park that they cancelled our training session. I guess that blister I got on my hand from polishing my runner (and don't think I don't know how dirty THAT phrase sounds - hahahaha) was all for naught. There was a club session on Sunday afternoon that I was going to try to slide in, but politics again got in the way, and they restricted the field to national team, club-only members and the elite guys going to Nationals (Ivan got in somehow, but as he missed the last two weeks, I don't begrudge him getting one run in).

As I sit here typing, I'm actually sort of looking forward to the end of the season. It has been such a series of ups and downs, that I look forward to going back to a simple life of weekly soccer games, where every little mistake or lapse in concentration doesn't translate directly into pain. Plus, now that I have a job as the new head soccer coach for the Park City Racquet Club's indoor soccer program (don't get too excited, it's only going to be for the month of March, and while it is a paid position, it'll only be about 40 total hours), I'll finally have free access to a gym, and can start a comprehensive weight training program, hopefully putting those ten pounds I lost back on, plus another 10-15 for good measure.

On the"real job" front, I did just interview with the Salt Lake ABC-TV station to do some part-time/freelance writing for them, and possibly some web production as well (the site really needs some work). In the meantime, I also had two interviews to work at Pearl Izumi, selling cycling jerseys, shorts, gloves, etc. Yeah, it's depressing that I really want to get this job, but I'm also really tired of sitting at home. I fully admit that I've wasted much of this free time by not going out and exploring the area - hiking, skiing and the like, but I don't like doing those things alone. Yeah, yeah, I know, "Poor Ori," but all of this is a little depressing, and it's hard to get out of the inertial state sometimes. At least by writing this, it keeps my mind moving, so keep the comments coming.
February 12, 2003

It's nice to get a little break after all that sliding. Give the bruises some time to heal, give the mind some time to get excited again, generally re-focus on sliding and not worry about everything else. Not much to report, other than after yet another run in with the turn 7 wall, I asked Colleen what else I could try to avoid that. She gave me a great tip -- hold the upsteer until you don't hit the wall, then let it go. Like magic, the next two runs I went whooshing down through the labyrinth, and racked two runs in the mid-52s. It's sad that it's taken me until the very end of the season to figure that out, but every little success is still a success.

The Junior Luge National Championships are in town next week, so we're off the track until next Saturday. Don't know what I'm going to do to keep busy. Guess I better start looking harder for a job.