Friday, November 18, 2011

My first medal! Woohoo!

"I was driving blind for the first three corners, and snow-plowing the rest of the way..." 
Australian pilot Heath Spence describing the track at Calgary on race-night

At -20 degrees celcius, you feel the cold air rip through your lungs as you breathe in. It takes just a few seconds for your ears to start stinging. 

A quick thought of beach-weather at home almost brought a tear to my eye... but then I rememebered that if I were to cry, I'd get ice in my eyes... not good for anyone I hear.

We'd scored one of the better sled spots though, so we did our work inside during the day, and did our warm up at the starthouse at the bottom of the hill.

Heath polishing runners..

During the warm-up I could sense this would be a day to remember...

Despite the conditions, this was a track heath was very comfortable with, and we'd been training hard all week.
I spent most of the two hours before the race psyching myself up, my headphones in...I spent 120 minutes concentrating on two five-second starts. 

It's strange to focus on such a small moment in time, and to put all the technique and work into it... there's more pressure on in that small window than you can imagine.

We spent what seemed like forever waiting for the starting call...

Finally the time arrived.. we ran out of the shed with our jackets and track-pants still on, hoping to hold on to the warmth for every second we could.

"Heath Spence to the line..." calls the announcer.

Calgary bob-track startline

With so much nervous energy, I ripped my jacket off early and paid the price... the cold hit me instantly. Despite all the adrenaline, and all my focus, it was hard not to feel the instant bite. 

The ice was -12 degrees, meaning the bobsled was actually freezing to the track almost instantly. I had to keep rocking it back and forth to make sure when we pushed it, the thing would actually move...

Here's our start (a 5.52 second start, around 5th fastest on the night), commentary courtesy of Lucas AKA Rodriguez...

I could feel instantly we were on a slippery slope, the ice was so solid that the runners were skidding across them and we were tapping the wall... it couldn't have helped that there was a snow cloud drifting across the run... Heath was driving blind.

Despite the bumps, we were entering every corner smoothly, and picking up speed.

We notched around 120kph and came through the finish line with a time around 57.8 seconds. It was nowhere near Heaths best, but in these conditions, it was competitive.

We sat in fifth place after the first heat. In bobsled, because times are so close, medals are awarded to the top six places in every competition except the Olympics.

As we waited around for a while, the boys who weren't racing got a little tired and cold, and decided to try out the hibernation thing in a spare bobsled...

Gareth feeling quite at home..
We were called a second time to the line... my heart was racing. A medal was ours for the taking... and for the first time in years, I got genuinely nervous. I could feel my gut sink... I knew how much Heath deserved his first two-man medal... and I knew how much I wanted one myself. The pressure was enormous.

For a fleeting moment, I imagined tripping over at the start, or missing the sled altogether with my load... I slapped my helmet in tribal fashion... knocking those thoughts out of my head.

'Think positive... ENJOY' I told myself.

Our Canadian support crew of Cassie and Madi called us up to the line for the final time... my heart was pounding.

We got to the line and launched again down the Calgary bobsled track.

We got a decent push... and sent the sled off the top around 5.57 seconds, a tad slower than the first run, but still a competitive time in the conditions.

Heath controlled the top beautifully, I barely noticed most of the corners.

Despite one of his best runs of the week... the downtime was around 58 seconds. The conditions weren't helping anyone.

But with one look at the finish clock on the brake-stretch, I saw all I needed to see....We'd secured a medal!!

It was Heath's first two man medal, and while he kept a lid on it, I could tell it meant a lot to him.

A crew member at the finish dock approached Heath...

"You just keep climbing don't ya?"

It's an odd thing to say... but Heath is definitely on the a sport where falling the fastest brings success.

"I guess I've got something to prove I bobsled now eh?" I chirped to Heath on the ride back to the top.
"Oh yeh" he responded, in typical fashion.

A part of him, I could tell, was already focussing on tomorrow... the second two man race. 

As for the medal ceremony, that's tomorrow after that race.

Gareth will be pushing for Heath tomorrow... here's hoping the boys can do even better!! I can't wait to cheer them on.


Just a quick note... I want to sincerely thank EVERYONE for the amazing amount of support we've received over the last few weeks. It means the world to me and the team to have you all behind us. 

It's easy to imagine you all cheering us on from the start line... although you're probably best reading the blog... it's pretty cold out there.
Jason, Lucas and Gareth can share in tonight's success... their work on the sled, and at the start-line was invaluable in VERY trying conditions.

Till next time....

Keep feeling the rhythm



  1. Well done boys!!! Great blog, love reading it. All the best for tomorrow and Sunday!! Vamos chicos!!! Till next time Cecilia

  2. Insanely, INSANELY proud of you all boys! Ben - Not only did you push like a vet but you captured tonight though writing amazingly. SpenceBobSquad is most certainly heading UP in a sport that is all about a speedy down.
    Trust me, this is merely a hint of what's to come...

    Remember: Finding each other is the beginning, staying together is the process, Working together is the success.

  3. Great to hear of your success guys! Anything in -20 weather is a challenge and it seems like you played it as if it were -5. Congrats!!!