Saturday, November 12, 2011

Four-man racing for Australia

"Ding Ding Ding.. Let's get going, it's Bobbin time!" 
- An official announcing the start of the Bobsled session

The Australian four-man crew

When your alarm goes off at six in the morning, you're rarely thrilled.

In the bobsled world, that's every day though, so you get used to making the dash to the warm shower before the sun has even risen.

On this particular day, the 11th of the 11th of 2011... I was turning 23, and what's more, having the honour of representing my country in a four-man bobsled race.

It's hard to find a more thrilling way to spend a birthday. That being the case I was up nice and early, and feeling fresh.

We listened our team tune "Cost of livin" by Ronnie Dunn as we prepared to go, needless to say... it was inspiring. Some of the carefully crafted and truly motivational lyrics include, "I've got a strong back, steel toe, and I rarely call in sick" or our new favourite, "I work weekends, if I have to, and I'm handy with a wrench."

As the four man is only a male discipline, we were starting earlier in the day, which meant we were out at the track by 8:30 putting the final polishing on in our runners, tightening bolts, and ensuring everything in the sled was in shape.

After making sure everything was OK, we had a full-on warm up. I'd tightened my hamstring in one of the two-man races with Heath so I spent about an hour stretching one leg, and getting some physio treatment on it.

It's a unique style of running when you are pushing a sled, it's almost like you perform the different stages of a hundred metre race in reverse, really digging in with the hamstrings early in the drive before opening up with the speed later.

I dropped two red bulls before the race, and spent most of my time psyching up to some great music.

Jason and Ryan were joining me and Heath in the four man.

Heath was piloting. Ryan was in position two, reassuringly referred to as 'cannonball' because of the awkward sitting position, and the increased likely-hood of bludgeoning your own head in a crash. Jason was going in three. And I, as had been the case all week, was slotting in at the back.

We were called to the line, and in a brief moment, I realised the fortune I'd stumbled across.

There I was, at the top of a hill, knowing I'd be at the bottom in under a minute, representing my country, with a good bunch of guys, on my birthday. It doesn't get much better than that.

I slapped my helmet, to make sure I brought myself back into the zone.

Heath had pretty good runs, but we had a few small bumps along the road that set us back to 8th in the finish.

What's important to remember is that Heath was driving a sled worth about a tenth the cost of some of the other sleds. Also, we work without a coach. Much of the work done here is done by the athletes.

Considering the support the other teams get, we are placing well, and have shown the athletic ability to really turn heads in the coming years.

After the race we enjoyed a pretty decent view from the deck of Jimmy Shea's place... I'm no buddhist but I was about ready to start meditating up there.

 There was also a spa there, so we chilled up there for a while. In the words of American bobsledder Travis Thompson, "it doesn't suck".

After dropping ridiculous amounts of money at the outlet malls buying more hoodies and hats, we rested up for another day of racing.

Today though, we experienced some incredibly tough conditions.

A massive blizzard hit the mountain top, with heavy wind and snow. Lucas and Gareth were having snowball fights in their first snow experience. In those conditions sled work was not fun...

With heavy snow build up on the track today, the first run threw up some weird times.. with some teams a few full seconds ahead of others. That being the case they scrapped the first heat altogether and made it a one-heat race.

Me, Lucas and Gareth were pushing for Heath... this is the four-man squad we all hope can push us toward Sochi 2014. It was our first official race together. We set a 5.08 second start time, faster than any other sled.

Heath had a great run until corner 13 where we jolted a little, but the conditions again threw up some varying times throughout the heat and we finished 9th. It was a disappointing result, but there was enough in the overall performance to really feel like we had something there. This feels like a team that can make a difference and really turn heads on the world stage. There is a lot of work to be done in the meantime, but we are all willing and able to do it. 

After the race, Heath, Ryan, and Gareth left for Calgary (not before doing some important mansion maintenance) while Jason, Lucas and I decided to spend another night in Park City.

Heath braving the height and the cold to ensure Jimmy had his Christmas decorations just right

It was a great night, with an enjoyable dinner and really good company. In fact, we even witnessed minor surgery as USA bobsledder Travis, a doctor, decided Jimmy Shea's mother-in-law needed a tooth removed.

He promptly removed the tooth at the kitchen bench before thoroughly washing his hands then carrying on cooking us food, and talking on the phone at the same time. Men can multitask, and this was proof. 

He lives in Florida and owns a boat... we can use his own expression to summarize his life... "it doesn't suck".

Tomorrow morning Jason, Lucas and I are off to Calgary, crossing some American states on a 16 hour road-trip. Considering the weather, we'll need some luck. Off to Calgary, more training, more thrills, and more races.

I'll leave you with another shot of Park City, one of the better places going round.

Keep feeling the rhythm.


  1. what a superb blog. an excellent way to see what adventures my little brother is having.(slap little luki on the back for me!) hope you are all enjoying this incredible experience. Russia will be sensational. cheers.

  2. I have the hugest smile on my face right now!
    I'm so proud of all of you for achieving everything to date and there is so much more to come! The Aussie family you gentlemen have already started to build is exactly what sport should be about. Congratulations! (and happy birthday Ben)
    Look out Calgary. Alberta, Canada SpenceBob Squad is on their way!!!