luge at Calgary Olympic Park

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luge at Calgary Olympic Park

Post by CptBeeble » Sat Jan 18, 2014 12:25 pm

Had two runs this morning. On my first run, I got the chance to be the first down the run.... mainly because nobody else would volunteer. I was the "model" for the instructor's spiel about how to lay on the sled, how to steer, what to do if you're fishtailing, etc.
SO, here's the drill.
You climb up the hill to the start, which is just the last five turns of the 14-turn run (I'll be doing the bobsled later today, which is the whole run, but with a professional driver). You get the helmet, elbow pads, instructions, and then you're ready to go. The guide up top gets word from the tower when the track is clear, then you ease up to the grab handles, aim your sled down the runway, and pull.
The first run, I was a bit leery of pulling too hard, lest I pull my butt right off the front of the sled. I got a nice start, but I didn't do that back-and-forth business you see the Olympians do. I just pulled nice and hard, laid back on the sled, and off I went.
It felt slow. They said that we're doing around 45-50kph, which is considerably slower than the 120kph you'd do if you went from the top. I kept a nice, clean line into the first left turn and a long straightaway helped me pick up speed for the next one. I was careful not to brush the sides as I went down the straight, since it slows you down and this was plenty slow enough already. I got a little bit of angle up the next turn, then a straight section gained me a bit more speed. I decided to steer into the third turn to try to go up the wall a bit. That's where the fun is, right?
I got a little higher up this turn and was picking up a bit of speed. Now it was getting seriously fun. A bit of a brush against the wall in the next straightaway (dammit), but I was able to steer away from it quickly. There isn't much side-to-side distance in those straights, so if you brush the wall, you can usually just keep going without much drama. I say "usually" - more on that later.
The final turn is a looooong horseshoe that lines you up into the finish run. This run is uphill slightly and slows the sled down to a stop. Getting off the sled on the ice track is one of the more difficult things to do, far more challenging than getting on it up at the top. They had told us that adults would usually get times in the 30-40 second range. I got a 31.91 and the guy at the bottom said that my time should hold up pretty well. I ended up with the 3rd-fastest time in our group of 11, with first place being 31.40-something. Less than half a second difference.

So my next run, I was determined to beat my previous time. I was the 10th one down the run and early times were in the 35-second range. The fastest time logged when I got on the sled was a 32.09 - which I had already bested on my first-ever try. I was focusing all my attention this time on the start. I wanted a nice, fast start and a clean run. The "clean run" part of it was apparently a no-braier, since you basically just lie down and hold on. I grabbed the bars, did a couple of back-and-forths, then pulled HARD into it. I got a faster start, for sure, as was evidenced by my getting a little bit of wall action on the first turn. Nice. Coming down in the middle of the turn was, however, sketchy. The sled began to wobble a bit, then went back up the wall a smidgen. On the straight section, I bumped the side a little (dammit!) but picked up some speed. Now this is better. I can tell that I'm already going faster than the first run. I caught some wall action on the next turn - still nothing like those 90-degree slides you see on TV, but a good 8-10inches up from horizontal, anyway. Coming out of the turn, I hit the wall of the straightaway. Hard. Rather than brushing it, I slammed it and ricocheted right across the lane into the other wall, which I hit even harder. DAMMIT! My thoughts of a good run were quickly disappearing and I did my best to straighten out the sled and find a clean line. It just wasn't happening. I hit the next turn at an angle, which pointed the sled right up the wall, but not with the turn. I came down from that partly sideways and there was just no hope of recovering my line after that. I went from trying to find the fastest line to trying to keep from slamming into something. The sled pinballed back and forth from one wall to the next, quite often lifting up on just one runner, and would've easily flipped over if there had been a higher center of gravity. The lifting/slamming back down moved my body a bit askew on the sled and at that point, those steering maneuvers you learned up top are pointless. They only work when you're properly aligned on the sled and the best thing to do now is just STAY ON THE SLED. Forget steering. Forget trying to get a good run. Just STAY ON THE SLED.
I hit the sides again. A lot. Some of them were pretty hard hits, too. I scuffed the knuckles on one of my gloves, but I don't even remember doing it. I was happy for the helmet! I got to the bottom in one piece, sore, and slow. My time was 37.something, nearly six seconds slower than my first run.... but it FELT five or six times faster.
I'll say that the first run, while hella fun, wasn't all that exciting. The second one, however, was AMAZING. Yes, I trashed my time and I'm kinda sore and it didn't do anything that I wanted it to do... but I really got an appreciation for what the pros are capable of. I can't tell you how many times I've watched an Olympic luger have a bit of a bobble, then correct it (at 3-4 times the speed I was going) and still have a good run. That's just crazy. I can tell you that those little mistakes and bobbles become exponentially worse if they aren't immediately corrected. Things get out of hand really quickly and you aren't exactly in a position where you have much leverage to correct what's gone wrong. Once it goes south, it goes WAY south in a big hurry. Kudos to anyone who can pull it back together and keep going.
So yeah, I'm kinda sore and a bit bummed that I didn't have another shot at besting my original time, but DAMN what a ride that second one was. I can rejoice in knowing that if I HAD gotten a faster time the second time around, it would've been an even less exciting ride than the first one. Oddly enough, more speed=less excitement... at least on an ice track with a tiny sled.

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Re: luge at Calgary Olympic Park

Post by mikeau98 » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:48 pm

Sounds cool.

Speaking of correcting a bobble, did anyone see the luger fall of the sled and hop back on to finish his run? I must say that was extremely impressive.

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Re: luge at Calgary Olympic Park

Post by Paul Drabek » Mon Feb 10, 2014 6:12 pm

I haven't see on that yet although I did see that Italian lady fall off her sled and loose it.
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